Water Efficient Practices for Saving Your Landscape
Drought Management for Horticultural Crops
Larry A. Stein, Professor and Extension Horticulturist
March 7, 2006
Horticultural crops demand and require significant amounts of water due to their perishable
nature. Tree fruit and nut crops are not only comprised of large amounts of water, but the trees
are perennial plants. Stress not only affects the current season's crop, but future crops as well.
Vegetables are also quite perishable but they represent annual crops and thus only one year of
production is affected.
Since water is such a critical component of the growth and development of horticultural crops, it
is recommended that none of these crops be established without full irrigation capabilities.
Normally 8-10 gallons of water per minute per acre well capacity for each acre planted are
required for horticultural crops. Even with this level of water use requirements, there are several
management decisions which can be undertaken to reduce the risk of over-extending an
Although drought management decisions are generally the same for vegetable and orchard crops,
orchardists are looking at such steps to ease their water shortage immediately since they already
have established, perennial trees. Vegetable producers have the ability to evaluate all aspects of
their water situation prior to planting and thus have the opportunity to reduce the size of planting,
not plant at all, etc. to make this water reach. Aspects to be considered on orchard crops include:
current irrigation method inefficiencies, irrigation scheduling techniques, less than optimum
irrigations, block productivity, and more efficient irrigation systems.
First and foremost though, the size of the operation must be adjusted to the capacity of the well
or water source. Most producers try to stretch their operation past the limits of their water. In
normal years when we get significant rainfall, we often get by with this defici