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R406 Water Use Efficiency Through Soil and Plant Water Balance

Publication Date: 
14 May 2012
Author/Contact :
Author/Contact: 
Mark Stalham

Contractor :
Contractor: 
Cambridge University Farm

Full Research Project Title: Improving water use efficiency through understanding soil and plant water balance
Duration: April 2008 - March 2011

Aim: To improve the efficiency of water use in GB production by understanding the interactions between soil and plant water status and evaporative demand.

Irrigation is often poorly scheduled in GB, resulting in both over- and under-watering and reduced tuber quality and yield. Studies of plant and tuber water status have shown that the water balance between leaves and tubers is very dynamic and affected by soil water status, evaporative demand and stage of canopy growth. Understanding how plants balance their water status in relation to evaporative demand under different soil conditions will be crucial in improving the management of irrigation.

Crop water supply is a function of both soil water holding capacity and rooting density, both of which are largely influenced by soil structure and density. Cultivating soil at the optimal water content reduces compaction, cloddiness and the risk of soil slumping through structural degradation during the season. Significant improvements to yield and efficiency of use of soil water and irrigation could be made by understanding the parameters that define these soil conditions.

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