Yield, Mineral Composition, Water Relations, and Water Use Efficiency of Grafted Mini-watermelon Plants Under Deficit Irrigation

Rouphael, Youssef; Cardarelli, Mariateresa; Colla, Giuseppe; Rea, Elvira

HortScience 43(3): 730-736


ISSN/ISBN: 0018-5345
DOI: 10.0000/pmid4281
Accession: 024149174

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Limited water supply in the Mediterranean region is a major problem in irrigated agriculture. Grafting may enhance drought resistance, plant water use efficiency, and plant growth. An experiment was conducted in two consecutive growing seasons to determine yield, plant growth, fruit quality, leaf gas exchange, water relations, macroelements content in fruits and leaves, and water use efficiency of mini-watermelon plants [Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum. and Nakai cv. Ingrid], either ungrafted or grafted onto the commercial rootstock 'PS 1313' (Cucurbita maxima Duchesne x Cucurbita moschata Duchesne), under open field conditions. Irrigation treatments were 1.0, 0.75, and 0.5 evapotranspiration rates. In both years (2006 and 2007), marketable yield decreased linearly in response to an increase in water stress. When averaged over year and irrigation rate, the total and marketable yields were higher by 115% and 61% in grafted than in ungrafted plants, respectively. The fruit quality parameters of grafted mini-watermelons such as fruit dry matter and total soluble solids content were similar in comparison with those of ungrafted plants, whereas titratable acidity, K, and Mg concentrations improved significantly. In both grafting combinations, yield water use efficiency (WUEy) increased under water stress conditions with higher WUE values recorded in grafted than ungrafted plants. The concentration of N, K, and M in leaves was higher by 7.4%, 25.6%, and 38.8%, respectively, in grafted than in ungrafted plants. The net assimilation Of CO2, stomatal conductance, relative water content, leaf, and osmotic potential decreased under water stress conditions. The sensitivity to water stress was similar between grafted and ungrafted plants, and the higher marketable yield from grafted plants was mainly the result of an improvement in nutritional status and higher CO2 assimilation and water uptake from the soil.