Effect of Deficit Irrigation on Root Growth, Soil Water Depletion, and Water Use Efficiency of Cucumber
Water scarcity is increasing in the world, which is limiting crop production, especially in water-limited areas such as Southern High Plains of the United States. There is a need to adopt the irrigation management practices that can help to conserve water and sustain crop production in such water-limited areas. A 2-year field study was conducted during the summers of 2019 and 2020 to evaluate the effect of deficit irrigation levels and cultivars on root distribution pattern, soil water depletion, and water use efficiency (WUE) of cucumber (Cucumis sativus). The experiment was conducted in a split-plot design with four irrigation levels [100%, 80%, 60%, and 40% crop evapotranspiration (ETc)] as main plot factor and two cultivars (Poinsett 76 and Marketmore 76) as subplot factor with three replications. Results showed that root length density (RLD) was unaffected by the irrigation levels in 2019. In 2020, the RLD was comparable between 100% and 80% ETc, and it was significantly higher in 100% ETc than both 60% Eand 40% ETc. Root surface area density (RSAD) was not significantly different between 100% and 80% ETc, and it was significantly lower in both 60% and 40% ETc than 100% ETc in both years. Soil water depletion was the highest in 40% ETc followed by 60% and 80% ETc, and it was least in 100% ETc in both years. Evapotranspiration (ET) was the highest in 100% ETc followed by 80%, 60%, and 40% ETc. The WUE was not statistically different among the irrigation treatments. However, numerically, WUE was observed in the following order: 80% ETc > 100% ETc > 60% ETc > 40% ETc. The RLD, RSAD, soil water depletion, and ET were not significantly different between ‘Poinsett 76’ and ‘Marketmore 76’. However, fruit yield was significantly higher in ‘Poinsett 76’ than ‘Marketmore 76’, which resulted in higher WUE in Poinsett 76. It can be concluded that 80% ETc and Poinsett 76 cultivar can be adopted for higher crop water productivity and successful cucumber production in SHP.