Effects of irrigation and nitrogen rates on growth, yield and quality of muskmelon in Sermiarid regions
Higgs, David Edward Barry
Muskmelon (Cucumis melo L. cv. 'Polidor') were grown under field conditions to investigate the effects of different nitrogen (N) levels (0, 40, 80, and 120 kg ha- 1) on plant growth, water use efficiency, fruit yield and quality (weight, sizes, and water-soluble dry matter), leaf relative water content, and macro nutrition under three different irrigation regimes. Irrigation was applied based on cumulative class A pan evaporation (Ep). Plant treatments were as follows: (1) well-watered treatment (C) received 100% replenishment of Ep on a daily basis, (2) water-stressed treatment (WS) received 75% replenishment of Ep at three-day intervals, and (3) severely water-stressed (SWS): treatment received 50% replenishment of Ep at six- day intervals. Plants grown under C at 120 kg N ha- 1 produced significantly higher biomass (175.6 g plant- 1), fruit yield (36.05 t ha- 1), fruit weight (2.25 kg fruit- 1), and leaf relative water content (93.5%) under increasing N levels than did the two deficit irrigation treatments. The WS or SWS treatments caused reductions in all parameters measured except water-soluble dry matter (SDM) concentrations in fruits compared with those receiving unstressed (C) treatment. The WS irrigation regime with 80 kg ha- 1 N significantly improved the fruit yield and size, plant dry matter, leaf area, and IWUE compared with the SWS regime. Increased N significantly enhanced foliar N in the unstressed plants. Increasing N rate in the SWS treatment did not increase fruit yield with the same trend found in the WS and C treatments with increasing N levels. The yield reduction under severe water shortage was much more severe at high N rates. Water use (ET) at the C treatment at 120 kg ha- 1 N ranged between 160 and 165 cm, while SWS reduced ET to 90 cm at 0 and 40 kg ha- 1 N. Nitrogen supply modified water use at C and WS irrigation regimes. Muskmelon yield response to N rate was quadratic and differed with the level of irrigation. This moderate water deficit (SW) may be an alternative irrigation choice with a suitable N application rate for muskmelon growers in arid and semi-arid regions if the goal is to irrigate an agricultural area with limited water supply for more growers, but not if it is maximizing economic yield. Growers should accept a significant yield reduction in exchange for water conservation.