Better tools for saving water and keeping peaches healthy

Dec 13, 2012 by Dennis O'brien

Peach growers in California may soon have better tools for saving water because of work by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists in Parlier, Calif.

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientist Dong Wang is evaluating whether infrared sensors and thermal technology can help peach growers decide precisely when to irrigate in California's . ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency, and the research supports the USDA priority of promoting international food security.

Irrigation is the primary source of water for agriculture in the valley during the summer, and wells have been forced to reach deeper to bring up enough water to meet increasing demands. Peaches also require much of their water from June through September, when temperatures and demands for water are at their highest.

Wang and Jim Gartung, an ARS agricultural engineer, installed 12 infrared in peach orchards at the San Joaquin Valley Agricultural Sciences Center in Parlier and gave trees one of four irrigation treatments: applying furrow or subsurface drip irrigation, with or without postharvest .

They also measured crop yields and assessed the quality of the fruit to compare the output of trees grown under deficit irrigation with trees grown under normal conditions. has been used to produce some varieties of grapes and has been studied for its potential in fruit tree and row crop production. But it has yet to be widely adopted, in part because growers need better tools to strike a balance between saving water and keeping crops viable and healthy, according to Wang.

They used the sensors to measure temperatures in the tree canopies, and calculated a "crop water " based on the differences between temperatures and the surrounding . Higher index numbers indicated more stressed trees.

The researchers found that midday canopy-to-air temperature differences in trees that were water-stressed postharvest were in the 10- to 15-degree Fahrenheit range, consistently higher than the 3- to 4-degree Fahrenheit range in the trees that were not water-stressed.

For comparison purposes, the researchers placed leaves from stressed and non-stressed trees in a pressure chamber and measured the pressure required to squeeze water out of them. When the trees are water-stressed, it takes more pressure to squeeze moisture from them.

The results, published in Agricultural Water Management, show that the pressure chamber results were consistent with data collected by the , which means the sensors may be an effective tool for managing water use in peach orchards.

Explore further: Man 'expelled from Croatia for punching monk seal'

More information: Read more about this research in the November/December 2012 issue of Agricultural Research magazine. www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/nov12/peach1112.htm

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Using less water to grow more potatoes

Sep 01, 2011

Research conducted in part at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has confirmed that in some production systems, planting potatoes in flat beds can increase irrigation water use efficiency.

Aerial Imagery System Helps Save Water

Sep 15, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists are developing a system that saves water by using aerial imagery and ground-based sensors to determine the irrigation needs of small sections ...

Recommended for you

Brother of Hibiscus is found alive and well on Maui

12 hours ago

Most people are familiar with Hibiscus flowers- they are an iconic symbol of tropical resorts worldwide where they are commonly planted in the landscape. Some, like Hawaii's State Flower- Hibiscus brackenridgei- are en ...

Boat noise impacts development and survival of sea hares

14 hours ago

While previous studies have shown that marine noise can affect animal movement and communication, with unknown ecological consequences, scientists from the Universities of Bristol and Exeter and the École Pratique des Hautes ...

Classic Lewis Carroll character inspires new ecological model

Jul 30, 2014

Inspired by the Red Queen in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, collaborators from the University of Illinois and National University of Singapore improved a 35-year-old ecology model to better understand how species ...

Saving seeds the right way can save the world's plants

Jul 30, 2014

Exotic pests, shrinking ranges and a changing climate threaten some of the world's most rare and ecologically important plants, and so conservationists establish seed collections to save the seeds in banks ...

User comments : 0