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Cool season vegetables require adequate soil moisture to assure that maximum yield and quality are achieved. On California’s central coast, where the majority of cool season vegetables are produced in the US, long-term overpumping of irrigation water has reduced groundwater levels and led to environmental degradation. Two evapotranspiration (ET) based irrigation field trials were performed near Salinas CA (USA) to determine if ET-based irrigation scheduling could conserve water while producing romaine lettuce (cv. Sun Valley) of commercially viable yield. Sprinklers were used for seed germination and crop establishment. Four drip irrigation treatments were then imposed using a randomized complete block design with six replications. The CropManage decision-support model was used to estimate the full (100%) crop water requirement based mainly on ET replacement. Other treatments included 50% 75% and 150% of the full water requirement. The 100% treatment received 185 mm of water in 2015 and 247 mm in 2016, both of which were well below prior guidance and grower reports. Yields from the 100% and 150% treatments were not significantly different and were similar to industry average, while yields were significantly lower for the 50% and 75% treatments. The 100% treatment had the highest water use efficiency, and the 100% and 150% treatments together had the highest nitrogen recovery efficiency. Irrigation of romaine near the 100% ET replacement level can potentially reduce environmental impacts associated with nitrate leaching and surface runoff.


Published in Horticulturae by MDPI. Available via doi: 10.3390/horticulturae8100857.

This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license ( 4.0/).