EGU General Assembly 2021
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the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Optimisation of fertigation scheduling based on indicators of soil water status in melon growing in semi-arid areas

Sandra María Martínez-Pedreño1, Pablo Berríos1, Abdelmalek Temnani1, Susana Zapata1, Manuel Forcén1, Juan A. Lopez2, Nieves Pavón2, and Alejandro Pérez-Pastor1
Sandra María Martínez-Pedreño et al.
  • 1Universidad Politécnica de Cartagena, Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingeniería Agronómica, Departamento de Ingeniería Agronómica, Cartagena, Spain
  • 2Universidad Politécnica de Cartagena, Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingeniería Industrial, Departamento de Automática, Ingeniería Eléctrica y Tecnología Electrónica, Cartagena, Spain

In water scarcity areas, it is necessary not only reducing the water applied as much as possible, but also optimizing nutrients application to avoid soil salinization and aquifers pollution because of leaching bellow the root zone. Increasing the sustainability of fertirrigation needs technology to adjust the irrigation time, knowing more precisely the soil water retention capacity and facilitate water absorption by the crop. The aim of this trial was to establish protocols for sustainable fertirrigation in melon crop under semi-arid conditions, both at an environmental and economic level, based on the use of soil water status indicators measured by sensors that allow us to increase the irrigation water use efficiency. Two irrigation treatments were established: i) Control (CTL), irrigated to satisfy the water requirements of the crop, according to the farmer's criterion throughout the crop cycle and ii) DI, deficit irrigation, irrigated to allow a maximum soil water depletion of 20%, with respect to field capacity throughout the crop cycle, from sensors located below the 20 cm depth horizon, in order to limit water leaching into the soil. An experimental design was established with 4 repetitions per treatment distributed at random, with 5 plants per repetition. Macro and micronutrients concentration of soil solution, leaves and fruits were analysed. The crop water status was determined fortnightly by measurements taken at solar midday of stem water potential, net photosynthesis, evapotranspiration rate and leaf conductance. Whereas photosynthetically active radiation absorption, basal stem and fruit equatorial diameters were determined to estimate plant and fruit growth. The physical (longitudinal and equatorial fruit diameters, fruit weight, pulp width and firmness) and chemical (titratable acidity, pH and total soluble solid of the juice, total phenolic content, total antioxidant capacity and total ascorbic acid) characteristics of harvested fruits were determined. Total water applied in CTL treatment was 3,254 m3 ha-1 throughout the crop cycle whereas DI received 2,284 m3 ha-1, a 29.8% lower. In both cases, the volume of water applied was lower than recommended by FAO. The regulation of the irrigation time in the DI treatment respect to the CTL promoted a reduction of the soil water content from 30 cm depth, mitigating the water loss below the root system, along with a lower contribution of nutrients, around of 43, 41.8 and 22% of N, P and K, respectively, and less salinization of the soil profile. No significant difference between treatments was detected in the concentration of these nutrients at leaf level. No difference was observed at harvest, with 0.53 and 0.59 g fruit g-1 total dry mass of harvest index in CTL and DI, respectively. Fruit quality was not negatively affected in DI but improved since ascorbic acid was higher. This means that DI treatment not only did not negatively affect the crop water status and the amount and quality of the yield, but also improved its biochemical quality while reducing water and nutrients use and leaching.

How to cite: Martínez-Pedreño, S. M., Berríos, P., Temnani, A., Zapata, S., Forcén, M., Lopez, J. A., Pavón, N., and Pérez-Pastor, A.: Optimisation of fertigation scheduling based on indicators of soil water status in melon growing in semi-arid areas, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-15032,, 2021.


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