YIELD AND FRUIT QUALITY OF ALMOND, PEACH AND PLUM UNDER REGULATED DEFICIT IRRIGATION
1. National Agricultural Research Institute, Meknes, BP 578, Morocco.
2. Laboratory of Biotechnology and Valorization of Plant Genetic Resources, Faculty of Sciences and Techniques, University of Sultan Moulay Slimane, Beni Mellal, BP 523, Morocco.
The effects of regulated deficit irrigation (RDI) on the performance of almond cv. Tuono, peach cv. JH-Hall and plum cv. Stanley were assessed on the Saiss Plain (NW, Morocco) over three consecutive growing seasons (2011–2013). Irrigation treatments consisted of a control, irrigation applied to fully satisfy crop water requirements (100% ETC), and two RDI treatments, irrigation applied to 75% ETC (RDI-75) and 50% ETC (RDI-50). These three treatments were applied during fruit-growth slowdown periods corresponding to Stages II and III in almond and Stage II in peach and plum. Yield and fruit quality traits were determined. The effect of RDI differed between species. Yield and fruit size were reduced significantly only in peach under RDI-50. Fruit quality improved in this species in the first year of the experiment, with an increase of sugar/acid ratio and polyphenol content. Plum quality also improved but the effects were significant only in the second and third years. Similar results were recorded in almond kernel, but their epidermal grooves were deeper under RDI-50, and this may have affected their commercial value. It is concluded that water can be saved during the fruit-growth slowdown period by up to 25% in peach and 50% in almond and plum with improvements in fruit quality without affecting total yield.