Skip to main content Accessibility help

Fruit yield and quality responses of apple cvars Gala and Fuji to partial rootzone drying under Mediterranean conditions

  • D. FRANCAVIGLIA (a1), V. FARINA (a1), G. AVELLONE (a2) and R. LO BIANCO (a1)


Increasing irrigation efficiency is a major goal for fruit production in dry Mediterranean environments. The present study was conducted in three consecutive years (2007–09) under typical Mediterranean conditions and tested the effect of partial rootzone drying (PRD) on yield and fruit quality of two apple cultivars: Gala, with fruit maturing in summer and Fuji, with fruit maturing in autumn. Three irrigation treatments were imposed: conventional irrigation (CI), PRD (0·50 of CI water on one side of the rootzone, which was alternated periodically) and continuous deficit irrigation (DI, 0·50 of CI water on both sides of the rootzone). During the 2008 and 2009 irrigation seasons, DI reduced tree water status, and to some extent soil moisture, compared with CI and PRD. In all the years and both cultivars, DI reduced crop load by 11 and 5% over CI and PRD, respectively. In cvar Fuji, DI reduced production per tree by 9% and yield efficiency by 16% compared with CI. In all years for cvar Gala and in 2 of the 3 years for cvar Fuji, PRD and DI increased fruit soluble solid content by 5–6%, whereas PRD improved peel colour only in cvar Fuji and in 2 of the 3 years. In cvar Gala, DI fruit showed 27% more sorbitol and 55% more sucrose than PRD fruit. In both cultivars, PRD determined greater marketable yield and profit than DI. Irrigation water productivity (IWP) was increased by both PRD and DI, and in Fuji, PRD induced 18% greater IWP than DI. The different responses of the two cultivars to irrigation treatments can be attributed to differences in canopy size, crop load and mostly to the different timing of fruit growth. In particular, undergoing fast fruit growth during the irrigation period seems to induce permanent yield reductions in DI (but not PRD) trees of cvar Fuji, whereas water deficit during late fruit growth and lower crop load may have cancelled the negative effect of DI in the smaller trees of cvar Gala.


Corresponding author

*To whom all correspondence should be addressed. Email:


Hide All
Allen, R. G., Pereira, L. S., Raes, D. & Smith, M. (1998). Crop Evapotranspiration – Guidelines for Computing Crop Water Requirements. FAO Irrigation and Drainage Paper 56. Rome: FAO.
Berüter, J. & Droz, P. (1991). Studies on locating the signal for fruit abscission in the apple tree. Scientia Horticulturae 46, 201214.
Caspari, H. W., Einhorn, T. C., Leib, B. G., Redulla, C. A., Andrews, P. K., Lombardini, L., Auvil, T. & McFerson, J. R. (2004). Progress in the development of partial rootzone drying of apple trees. Acta Horticulturae 664, 125132.
Chalmers, D. J., Mitchell, P. D. & van Heek, L. (1981). Control of peach tree growth and productivity by regulated water supply, tree density, and summer pruning. Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science 106, 307312.
Commission Internationale de l’Éclairage (CIE) (1976). International Lighting Vocabulary. Vienna, Austria: CIE.
Davies, W. J., Wilkinson, S. & Loveys, B. (2002). Stomatal control by chemical signalling and the exploitation of this mechanism to increase water use efficiency in agriculture. New Phytologist 153, 449460.
Dodd, I. C. (2009). Rhizosphere manipulations to maximize ‘crop per drop’ during deficit irrigation. Journal of Experimental Botany 60, 24542459.
Dodd, I. C., Theobald, J. C., Bacon, M. A. & Davies, W. J. (2006). Alternation of wet and dry sides during partial rootzone drying irrigation alters root-to-shoot signalling of abscisic acid. Functional Plant Biology 33, 10811089.
Dodd, I. C., Egea, G. & Davies, W. J. (2008 a). ABA signalling when soil moisture is heterogeneous: decreased photoperiod sap flow from drying roots limits ABA export to the shoots. Plant, Cell and Environment 31, 12631274.
Dodd, I. C., Egea, G. & Davies, W. J. (2008 b). Accounting for sap flow from different parts of the root system improves the prediction of xylem ABA concentration in plants grown with heterogeneous soil moisture. Journal of Experimental Botany 59, 40834093.
Dry, P. R. & Loveys, B. R. (1998). Factors influencing grapevine vigour and the potential for control with partial rootzone drying. Australian Journal of Grape and Wine Research 4, 140148.
Dry, P. R., Loveys, B. R., Botting, D. G. & Düring, H. (1996). Effects of partial rootzone drying on grapevine vigour, yield, composition of fruit and use of water. In Proceedings of the Ninth Australian Wine Industry Technical Conference (Eds Stockley, C. S., Sas, A. N., Johnstone, R. S. & Lee, T. H.), pp. 128131. Adelaide: Winetitles.
Dry, P. R., Loveys, B. R. & Düring, H. (2000). Partial drying of the rootzone of grape. I. Transient changes in shoot growth and gas exchange. Vitis 39, 37.
Ebel, R. C., Proebsting, E. L. & Patterson, M. E. (1993). Regulated deficit irrigation may alter apple maturity, quality, and storage life. HortScience 28, 141143.
Ebel, R. C., Proebsting, E. L. & Evans, R. G. (1995). Deficit irrigation to control vegetative growth in apple and monitoring fruit growth to schedule irrigation. HortScience 30, 12291232.
Einhorn, T. & Caspari, H. W. (2004). Partial rootzone drying and deficit irrigation of ‘Gala’ apples in a semi-arid climate. Acta Horticulturae 664, 197204.
Fallahi, E., Fallahi, B. & Shafii, B. (2008). Effect of irrigation systems and rootstocks on water use, tree growth, fruit quality and mineral nutrients in apples during the third and fourth year after planting. Acta Horticulturae 772, 3339.
Fereres, E. & Soriano, M. A. (2007). Deficit irrigation for reducing agricultural water use. Journal of Experimental Botany 58, 147159.
Girona, J., Behboudian, M. H., Mata, M., Del Campo, J. & Marsal, J. (2010). Exploring six reduced irrigation options under water shortage for ‘Golden Smoothee’ apple: responses of yield components over three years. Agricultural Water Management 98, 370375.
Gowing, D. J. G., Davies, W. J. & Jones, H. G. (1990). A positive root-sourced signal as an indicator of soil drying in apple, Malus domestica Borkh. Journal of Experimental Botany 41, 15351540.
Kilili, A. W., Behboudian, M. H. & Mills, T. M. (1996). Composition and quality of ‘Braeburn’ apples under reduced irrigation. Scientia Horticulturae 67, 111.
Kudoyarova, G. R., Vysotskaya, L. B., Cherkozyanova, A. & Dodd, I. C. (2007). Effect of partial rootzone drying on the concentration of zeatin-type cytokinins in tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) xylem sap and leaves. Journal of Experimental Botany 58, 161168.
Lang, A. & Ryan, K. G. (1994). Vascular development and sap flow in apple pedicels. Annals of Botany 74, 381388.
Leib, B. G., Caspari, H. W., Redulla, C. A., Andrews, P. K. & Jabro, J. J. (2006). Partial rootzone drying and deficit irrigation of ‘Fuji’ apples in semi-arid climate. Irrigation Science 24, 8599.
Lo Bianco, R. & Francaviglia, D. (2012). Comparative responses of ‘Gala’ and ‘Fuji’ apple trees to deficit irrigation: Placement versus volume effects. Plant and Soil 357, 4158.
Lo Bianco, R., Talluto, G. & Farina, V. (2012). Effects of partial rootzone drying and rootstock vigour on dry matter partitioning of apple trees (Malus domestica cvar Pink Lady). Journal of Agricultural Science, Cambridge 150, 7586.
Lombardini, L., Caspari, H. W., Elfving, D. C., Auvil, T. D. & McFerson, J. R. (2004). Gas exchange and water relations in ‘Fuji’ apple trees grown under deficit irrigation. Acta Horticulturae 636, 4350.
Lötter,, V., Beukes, D. J. & Weber, H. W. (1985). Growth and quality of apples as affected by different irrigation treatments. Journal of Horticultural Science 60, 181192.
Mills, T. M., Behboudian, M. H. & Clothier, B. E. (1997). The diurnal and seasonal water relations, and composition, of ‘Braeburn’ apple fruit under reduced plant water status. Plant Science 126, 145154.
Mitchell, P. D. & Chalmers, D. J. (1982). The effect of reduced water supply on peach tree growth and yields. Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science 107, 853856.
Mpelasoka, B. S., Behboudian, M. H. & Green, S. R. (2001). Water use, yield and fruit quality of lysimeter-grown apple trees, responses to deficit irrigation and to crop load. Irrigation Science 20, 107113.
Naor, A., Naschitz, S., Peres, M. & Gal, Y. (2008). Responses of apple fruit size to tree water status and crop load. Tree Physiology 28, 12551261.
O'Connell, M. G. & Goodwin, I. (2007). Responses of ‘Pink Lady’ apple to deficit irrigation and partial rootzone drying: physiology, growth, yield, and fruit quality. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 58, 10681076.
Powell, D. B. B. (1974). Some effects of water stress in late spring on apple trees. Journal of Horticultural Science 49, 257272.
Rojas-Escudero, E., Alarcón-Jiménez, A. L., Elizalde-Galván, P. & Rojo-Callejas, F. (2004). Optimization of carbohydrate silylation for gas chromatography. Journal of Chromatography A 1027, 117120.
Romero, P., Dodd, I. C. & Martinez-Cutillas, A. (2012). Contrasting physiological effects of partial root zone drying in field-grown grapevine (Vitis vinifera L. cv. Monastrell) according to total soil water availability. Journal of Experimental Botany 63, 40714083.
Sadras, V. O. (2009). Does partial root-zone drying improve irrigation water productivity in the field? A meta-analysis. Irrigation Science 27, 183190.
Stoll, M., Loveys, B. & Dry, P. (2000). Hormonal changes induced by partial rootzone drying of irrigated grapevine. Journal of Experimental Botany 51, 16271634.
Suzuki, Y., Kanayama, Y. & Yamaki, S. (1996). Occurrence of two sucrose synthase isozymes during maturation of Japanese pear fruit. Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science 121, 943947.
Talluto, G., Farina, V. & Lo Bianco, R. (2007). Growth, fruit yield and quality of ‘Golden Delicious’ apple trees under fixed partial rootzone drying. Journal of Applied Horticulture 9, 5055.
Talluto, G., Farina, V., Volpe, G. & Lo Bianco, R. (2008). Effects of partial rootzone drying and rootstock vigour on growth and fruit quality of ‘Pink Lady’ apple trees in Mediterranean environments. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 59, 785794.
van Hooijdonk, B. M., Dorji, K. & Behboudian, M. H. (2004). Responses of ‘Pacific Rose’™ apple to partial rootzone drying and to deficit irrigation. European Journal of Horticultural Science 69, 104110.
Yamaguchi, H., Kanayama, Y., Soejima, J. & Yamaki, S. (1996). Changes in the amounts of the NAD-dependent sorbitol dehydrogenase and its involvement in the development of apple fruit. Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science 121, 848852.
Yamaki, S. & Ishikawa, K. (1986). Roles of four sorbitol-related enzymes and invertase in the seasonal alteration of sugar metabolism in apple tissue. Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science 111, 134137.
Zegbe, J. A. & Behboudian, M. H. (2008). Plant water status, CO2 assimilation, yield, and fruit quality of ‘Pacific Rose™’ apple under partial rootzone drying. Advances in Horticultural Science 22, 2732.
Zegbe, J. A. & Serna-Pérez, A. (2011). Partial rootzone drying maintains fruit quality of ‘Golden Delicious’ apples at harvest and postharvest. Scientia Horticulturae 127, 455459.
Zhang, L. Y., Peng, Y. B., Pelleschi-Travier, S., Fan, Y., Lu, Y. F., Lu, Y. M., Gao, X. P., Shen, Y. Y., Delrot, S. & Zhang, D. P. (2004). Evidence for apoplasmic phloem unloading in developing apple fruit. Plant Physiology 135, 574586.

Fruit yield and quality responses of apple cvars Gala and Fuji to partial rootzone drying under Mediterranean conditions

  • D. FRANCAVIGLIA (a1), V. FARINA (a1), G. AVELLONE (a2) and R. LO BIANCO (a1)


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed