A suite of irrigation trials in summerfruit for yield, quality and irrigation best management practices



The Irrigation experiment at Tatura's Stonefruit Field Laboratory aims to Identify the combinations of irrigation levels and timing that will enable the late season nectarine variety September Bright to achieve maximum uniformity in fruit quality attributes.

Dr Mark O'Connell introduces the Nectarine, Open Tatura trellis, irrigation experiments.
  • Nectarine cv. September Bright with Rootstock: Elberta
  • Planted winter 2014 in Open Tatura tree training at a density of 2222 trees/ha

The experiment has three irrigation levels and four irrigation application timings as treatments.

The irrigation levels (% of tree evapotranspiration), applied using drip irrigation, are:

  • 0: extreme deficit irrigation to impose high level of water stress
  • 20 & 40: deficit irrigation to impose severe and moderate level of water stress
  • 100: control irrigation, crop water requirement to maximise yield

The experiment has four irrigation application timings and likely crop responses:

  • Stage I of fruit development: water stress restricts cell division, reduces fruit size and yield
  • Stage II of fruit development: water stress reduces vegetative vigour
  • Stage IIIa of fruit development (early): water stress reduces fruit size and yield
  • Stage IIIb of fruit development (late): water stress reduces fruit size and yield

Table 1: Irrigation experimental treatments

2016/17 irrigation experiment

Regulated deficit irrigation (RDI) occurs during stage 2 of development. See Graph below.

Shoot and fruit growth graph


Dr Mark O'Connell discusses some of the findings from the irrigation experiment in the following video (9 min, 37 sec)

Results from the Irrigation Experiment

Time series videos

Every few weeks photos were taken of each experiment, and produced into a video to show the resulting growth of tree canopies and fruit development.

Time series video

Photos of Nectarine, September Bright, on Open Tatura trellis, from 2015 to 2017

Plant Water Status Trial

Continuous detection of plant water status

This study aims to test plant-based sensors for their efficiency in determining nectarine water status in a modern high-density orchard.

Virtual Orchard Tour - A look at tree structures in the irrigation experiments

360 degree photos of tree structures in the stonefruit research orchard.

February 2019 - Fruit on trees

November 2018 - Fruit development

September 2018 - Flowering

July 2018 - Dormancy

Warning: this software uses a lot of data and may take time to load each panoramic (360 degree) view of the orchard.

*Tour software works best in Chrome or Internet Explorer 11

How to navigate: DESKTOP Computer

To move the picture for a 360 degree view: Use mouse + hold left button

To zoom in and out: use scroll wheel on mouse

To move to the next picture: Select panos (round circle on screen)

Select menu in top right corner for more options.

  • Full screen
  • Auto rotation on/off
  • Auto follow on/off
  • Press [Esc] to exit full screen

This research (SF12003 Increased stone fruit profitability by consistently meeting market expectations; SF17006 Summerfruit Orchard Phase 2) was funded by Agriculture Victoria with co-investment from Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited using the Summerfruit levy and funds from the Australian Government.