The tomato is an important horticultural crop, the cultivation of which is often under influence of abiotic and biotic stressors. Grafting is a technique used to alleviate these problems. Shortage of water has stimulated the introduction of new irrigation methods: deficit irrigation (DI) and partial root-zone drying (PRD).
A recent study was conducted in two spring–summer season experiments to evaluate the effects of three irrigation regimes: full irrigation (FI), PRD and DI on vegetative growth, leaf gas-exchange parameters, yield, water-use efficiency (WUE), nutrients profile and fruit quality of grafted tomatoes.
In both years, the commercial rootstocks Emperador and Maxifort were used. In the first year, the scion cultivar Clarabella was grown on one stem and in the second year the cultivar Attiya was grown on two stems. Self-grafted cultivars were grown as a control. In both experiments, higher vegetative traits (leaf area and number, height, shoot biomass) were recorded in the plants grafted on commercial rootstocks.
The stomatal conductance and transpiration rate were higher under FI. Under DI, transpiration was lowest and photosynthetic WUE was highest. Photosynthetic rate changed between irrigation treatments depending on plant type. In both years, the total yield was highest in grafted plants as result of more and bigger fruits per plant. In the 2nd year, grafted plants under FI had higher yield compared to PRD, but not to DI, while self-grafted plants did not differ between irrigation treatments. WUE was highest in DI and PRD treatments and in grafted plants. Leaf N, P, K and Ca was highest in tthe plants grafted on Emperador and Maxifort, while more Mg was measured in self-grafted plants. More Ca and Mg were recorded in tthe plants under DI and PRD. Fruit mineral concentrations were higher in tthe plants grafted on commercial rootstocks.
Total soluble solids differed between irrigation regarding plant types, while fruit total acidity was higher in Emperador and Maxifort. In conclusion, our study showed that grafted plants could be grown under DI with minor yield reduction with 30–40% less water used for irrigation. Moderate DI could be used before PRD for cultivation of grafted tomato and double stemmed plants did not show negative effect on tomato yield so it can be used as standard under reduced irrigation.