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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Winter flooding recharges groundwater in almond orchards with limited effects on root dynamics and yield


California signed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) into law in 2014. SGMA requires groundwater-dependent regions to halt overdraft and develop plans to reach an annual balance of pumping and recharge. Groundwater aquifers can be recharged by flooding agricultural fields when fallow, but this has not been an option for perennial crops such as fruit and nut trees. While flooding these crops might be possible during the dormant season, it is not known what impact flooding might have on tree-root systems, health and yield. We followed root production, tree water status and yield in two almond orchards in Northern California for 2 years to test the impact of applying captured winter water runoff for groundwater recharge purposes on tree performance. Results showed that more than 90% of the water applied to sandy soil and 80% of the water applied to loamy soil percolated past the root zones, with no measured adverse effects on tree water status, canopy development or yield. Groundwater recharge did not negatively affect new root production and tended to extend root lifespan. Based upon these data, applying additional water in late December and January is not likely to have negative impacts on almond orchards in moderately drained to well-drained soils.

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