The average artichoke plant needs frequent watering throughout the growing season. The number of irrigation sessions can vary greatly depending on the:
- soil type, variety and cropping system (e.g., annual or perennial)
- irrigation method used,
- environmental conditions (temperature, rainfalls, etc.).
More specifically, artichokes may be irrigated up to 1-3 times per week or once every 2-3 weeks, starting 30 days after the plants have been cut back (for perennial crops). The average supply during the season should be around 1-2 in (25.4-51 mm) of water per week. Thanks to their deep root system (3-4 ft or 90-120 cm deep), artichokes can tolerate some water stress during the early vegetative stages. The most critical stages regarding the water needs of artichokes are flowering and bud formation. Luck of water may result in the formation of fewer flower buds (less yield) and “black tip” (physiological disorder during which the bracts become dark), especially when the weather is warm and sunny. Furthermore, water-stressed plants are more susceptible to pests and diseases.
On the other hand, farmers should always avoid soil saturation close to the plant’s crown since artichokes are very sensitive to water logging. It is advised to add mulch and incorporate compost to your ground, close to the plants, to increase the soil’s ability to hold water during the summer and decrease evaporation and drain in the winter.
Irrigation systems for artichoke cultivation
Artichokes can be successfully irrigated by furrow irrigation, sprinklers, and drippers. However, the efficiency of irrigation is higher with the drip irrigation system. Some farmers use single or double lines of subsurface drip, placed 12-14 in (or 30-35 cm) below the soil surface, close to the plant row. After plants’ establishment, the grower can switch to a surface-placed drip. This method is preferred in perennial artichoke farming and can offer up to a 25% reduction in water consumption on loamy soils, leading to increased soil moisture and yield (higher number of heads per plant). More specifically, water consumption can reach levels of 7,000-8,000 m3 per hectare (748,000-855,000 gallons/acre) annually when drip irrigation is used.
Irrigation with sprinklers is generally preferred for early irrigations or annual artichoke cultivation. In this system, the water consumption is a bit higher than drip irrigation, reaching 10,000-11,000 m3 per hectare annually (1,140,000 gallons/acre). More specifically, the farmer can apply, per hectare, 200-310 m3 of water (21,381-33,141 gallons/acre) in every irrigation or a total of 1860-2480 m3 (198,846-265,128 gallons/acre) during the whole growing season in perennial cultivation. Due to the higher plant density, the water supply remains in the upper limits mentioned before, even in annual crops. Finally, most farmers generally prefer to irrigate their artichokes early in the morning or late in the evening to avoid excess transpiration.
Smith, R., Baameur, A., Bari, M., Cahn, M., Giraud, D., Natwick, E., & Takele, E. (2008). Artichoke production in California.
Shinohara, T., Agehara, S., Yoo, K. S., & Leskovar, D. I. (2011). Irrigation and nitrogen management of artichoke: Yield, head quality, and phenolic content. HortScience, 46(3), 377-386.
Artichoke Water Requirements and Irrigation Systems
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