Although apricot is believed to have greater drought tolerance than peach (almost similar to the almond tree), it is essential to maintain adequate moisture in the soil, especially in the periods with the highest water demand of the apricot trees. When rainfall is not sufficient or well-spread during the growing period, irrigation is a necessary operation and is critical for the good establishment, longevity, and maximum production of an apricot orchard. However, over-irrigation should be avoided as it often leads to root rot.
The total amount of water needed per year also depends on the environmental conditions (e.g., temperature), the plant density, the age of the trees, and the yield goals of the grower. For example, an apricot tree usually needs 20-35 inches of water per year in order to have good vegetative development and yield. Young trees during the first years of the establishment may require one irrigation every two weeks (1-3 inches or 25-76 mm of water). For mature apricot trees, in regions with a medium amount of rainfall and deep, fertile soils, a mature apricot orchard needs approximately two irrigation sessions per year (one before harvesting in mid-summer and one in early autumn). Generally, the apricot tree has great water needs from the endocarp hardening stage of the fruit until the fruit maturing stage, which occurs from spring to summer. In addition, irrigation right after harvesting helps the tree form next year’s flower buds and reduce the alternate bearing phenomenon (although it is not common in apricots due to the early maturation of most apricot varieties).
Broadly speaking, and without taking into consideration the annual rainfall, apricots need:
- During the 1st year: 20 Acre-inch (AcIn) water per year
- During the 2nd year: 24 AcIn water per year
- During the 3rd year: 30 AcIn water per year
- During the 4th year: 36 AcIn water per year
1 acre-inch of water = 102.790,153 liters of water
Irrigation systems/methods for apricots
In large commercial apricot orchards, drip irrigation and microjet systems are the two most commonly used irrigation methods. With these systems, a farmer can control the soil moisture daily with great precision and efficiency (using sensors is also advised). A standard drip irrigation system consists of 2 laterals per row, whereas the distance between drippers is 2 feet (60 cm.) More specifically, based on experimental results, a 25% deficit irrigation with a subsurface drip irrigation system with a lateral per tree row and four emitters per tree (of 4 L h–1 flow rate) in young orchards may offer maximum yield and significant water savings. An additional benefit of drip irrigation is the possibility to apply fertigation (i.e., injection of fertilizers through the irrigation system). On the other hand, water sprinkling has proven an effective measure for protecting apricot buds and flowers from frost. Good results have been obtained by a precipitation rate of 0.15 inches per hour when the temperature falls to 25 °F (-4 °C).
Apricot Trees Irrigation – How to water Apricot trees