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Ecología austral

On-line version ISSN 1667-782X

Abstract

SEARLES, Peter S; AGUERO ALCARAS, Martín  and  ROUSSEAUX, María C. Water use by olive orchards (Olea europaea L.) in the Northwest of Argentina: a comparison with the Mediterranean Basin. Ecol. austral [online]. 2011, vol.21, n.1, pp. 15-28. ISSN 1667-782X.

In the last 20 years, there has been a great expansion in the land area planted with olive trees (Olea europaea L.) in the Northwest of Argentina (NWA). Nevertheless, most of the information utilized in management decisions in the region concerning crop water use comes from the Mediterranean Basin. This review discusses: 1) differences in climate between the Mediterranean Basin and the olive production areas in the NWA, 2) water use by olive in the Mediterranean and ecophysiological responses to water stress, and 3) experimental results from the NWA using Aimogasta (La Rioja) as a case study. Meteorological data indicate that the air temperature (primarily in the winter and spring) and the annual potential evapotranspiration (ETo) are higher in the NWA than in the Mediterranean, while precipitation is less. Differences in temperature have been shown to result in lack of chilling hours for flowering in some varieties, advances in phenological stages, and changes in oil quality and quantity in NWA relative to the Mediterranean. Experimental results from the Mediterranean show that transpiration, yield, and other variables respond strongly to irrigation although olive is a species with a high tolerance to water stress in comparison to other fruit trees. Similar to the Mediterranean, olive water use in Aimogasta was estimated to be 70-75% of ETo under optimally irrigated conditions. Considering the differences in the ETo values in the two regions, water use is 1100-1200 mm/year in the NWA and 900-1000 in the Mediterranean. Additionally, the required irrigation is more than double due to the lack of precipitation in many areas. An unanticipated result in Aimogasta based on the studies from the Mediterranean was the excessive vegetative growth under high irrigation conditions. The excessive vigour was potentially a response to the irrigation in interaction with the high spring temperatures that occur in the region. The development of regulated deficit irrigation strategies in the spring (or in other time periods) could save water and improve the ratio of vegetative to reproductive growth.

Keywords : Potential evapotranspiration; Leaf conductance; Soil evaporation; Sap flow; Deficit irrigation; Transpiration.

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