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Revista Brasileira de Engenharia Agrícola e Ambiental

Print version ISSN 1415-4366On-line version ISSN 1807-1929

Rev. bras. eng. agríc. ambient. vol.22 no.12 Campina Grande Dec. 2018 


Frequency of irrigation with saline water in sugar-apple seedlings produced on substrate with polymer

Frequência de irrigação com água salina em mudas de pinha produzidas em substrato com polímero

1Universidade São Paulo/Escola Superior de Agricultura “Luiz de Queiroz”/Programa de Pós-Graduação em Fisiologia e Bioquímica de Plantas. Piracicaba, SP. E-mail: (Corresponding author) - ORCID: 0000-0002-9829-8794

2Universidade Federal da Paraíba/Centro de Ciências Agrárias/Programa de Pós-Graduação em Agronomia. Areia, PB. E-mail: - ORCID: 0000-0002-9185-2641; - ORCID: 0000-0002-8827-4713; - ORCID: 0000-0002-5108-836X

3Universidade Federal da Paraíba/Centro de Ciências Agrárias. Areia, PB. E-mail: - ORCID: 0000-0003-1085-0191

4Universidade Estadual Paulista “Júlio de Mesquita Filho”/Faculdade de Ciências Agronômicas/Departamento de Engenharia Rural. Botucatu, SP. E-mail: - ORCID: 0000-0001-6621-7155


The objective of this work was to evaluate the growth of sugar-apple seedlings under irrigation management with saline water in a substrate with soil amendment. Treatments were obtained from the arrangement between polymer doses (0, 0.2, 0.6, 1.0 and 1.2 g dm-3) and levels of irrigation water electrical conductivity (0.3, 1.1, 2.7, 4.3 and 5.0 dS m-1), associated with irrigation frequencies (daily and every alternate day), and two additional treatments to evaluate container volume (1.30 and 0.75 dm3), using a randomized complete block design, with four replicates. At 120 days after sowing, the variables substrate salinity, stem diameter, plant height, number of leaves and Dickson quality index were determined. Data were submitted to analyses of variance, regression and contrast. Substrate salinity increased with the increase in irrigation water electrical conductivity and polymer doses. Growth and quality of the seedlings were reduced with increasing irrigation water salinity, and highest values of the variables were obtained in seedlings under daily irrigation. Container with larger volume led to higher growth. The use of hydrated polymer at the adopted levels had no effect on growth and quality of seedlings, requiring further studies. To produce sugar-apple seedlings with better quality, irrigation frequency should be daily and water electrical conductivity should be lower than 2 dS m-1.

Key words: Annona squamosa; soil amendment; container volume; seedling quality


Objetivou-se com o trabalho avaliar a formação de mudas de pinha sob o manejo da irrigação com água salina em substrato com condicionante de solo. Os tratamentos foram obtidos do arranjo entre doses de polímero (0; 0,2; 0,6; 1,0 e 1,2 g dm-3) e condutividade elétrica da água de irrigação (0,3; 1,1; 2,7; 4,3 e 5,0 dS m-1), associado a frequências de irrigação (diária e alternada), e mais dois tratamentos adicionais para avaliar o volume de recipiente (1,30 e 0,75 dm3), utilizando o delineamento de blocos casualizados, com quatro repetições. Aos 120 dias após a semeadura, determinou-se as variáveis salinidade do substrato, diâmetro do caule, altura, número de folhas e índice de qualidade de Dickson. Os dados foram submetidos às análises de variância, regressão e contraste. A salinidade do substrato aumentou com a elevação da condutividade elétrica da água de irrigação e com as doses de polímero. O crescimento e a qualidade das mudas foram reduzidos com o aumento da salinidade da água de irrigação, sendo os maiores valores das variáveis obtidos sob irrigação diária. Recipiente de maior volume proporcionou maior crescimento. O uso de polímero hidratado nos níveis adotados não apresentou respostas ao crescimento e qualidade das mudas, necessitando mais estudos. Para produção de mudas de pinha de melhor qualidade deve ser realizada irrigação diária, utilizando água de condutividade elétrica menor que 2 dS m-1.

Palavras-chave: Annona squamosa; condicionador do solo; volume de recipiente; qualidade de mudas


Annona squamosa L., popularly known as sugar-apple, is a short tree belonging to the Annonaceae family. Its yield in Brazil is still low, below 6 t ha-1, and the Northeast is the main producing region (Lemos, 2014). In general, the crop is produced in small areas using low technological level (Oliveira et al., 2016). In the planting of the orchards, several phytotechnical aspects must be considered and one of the first and fundamental ones is the acquisition or production of seedlings, because their vigor may affect crop yield (Santos et al., 2017).

One of the main problems for production in Northeast Brazil is the availability of water, as well as its quantity and/or quality. Presence of high quantity of salts, which would correspond to electrical conductivity values above 4 dS m-1, affects water absorption and cause toxic effects (Munns & Tester, 2008; Taiz et al., 2017), directly hampering physiological and biochemical processes (Prisco et al., 2016), resulting in lower growth of seedlings (Cavalcante et al., 2010; Sousa et al., 2011; Nunes et al., 2012; Sá et al., 2013, 2015; Oliveira et al., 2017).

The use of water-absorbing polymer has become a low-cost measure aimed at more efficient use of water and reduction of problems related to salinity (Kant & Turan, 2011; Ljubojevi et al., 2017), as it is possible to reduce irrigation depth and consequently the addition of salts. Furthermore, management in irrigation frequency can be determinant in water availability (Navroski et al., 2015), as well as the adjustment of container volume, which is directly linked to the availability of space and nutrients for root growth, possibly leading to greater growth and vigor of seedlings (Costa et al., 2009a,b; Vallone et al., 2010; Mesquita et al., 2012; Santos et al., 2012). However, larger containers are more expensive and, therefore, it is essential to reduce container volume to minimize costs, but without compromising seedling quality.

Thus, this work was conducted to evaluate substrate salinity and growth of sugar-apple seedlings as affected by irrigation frequency, irrigation water electrical conductivity, water-absorbing polymer and container volume.

Material and Methods

The study was conducted in the screened greenhouse (6° 58’ 9.4” S, 35° 42’ 59.3” W and 522 m of altitude) of the Department of Soils and Rural Engineering of the Center of Agrarian Sciences, at the Federal University of Paraíba, situated in the municipality of Areia, Paraíba State, Brazil.

Treatments were arranged in a [(22 + 2 x 2 + 1) x 2] + 2 scheme, where (22 + 2 x 2 + 1) was obtained by combinations between five doses of the polymer Hydroplan-EB/HyA (0; 0.2; 0.6; 1.0 and 1.2 g dm-3) and five levels of irrigation water electrical conductivity (0.3; 1.1; 2.7; 4.3 and 5.0 dS m-1) using the Box’s Central Composite Design, associated with two irrigation frequencies (daily and alternating), and two additional treatments to evaluate the effect of container volume (0.75 and 1.30 dm3), as can be observed in Table 1. The statistical design was randomized complete blocks, with four replicates, and the experimental unit consisted of four containers with one plant each.

Table 1 Scheme between the levels of the factors (HyA – Polymer; ECiw – Electrical conductivity of irrigation water; IF – Irrigation frequency; CtV – Container volume) used in the experiment 

Treat.1 Levels2 Doses/Concentrations IF CtV (dm3)
HyA ECiw HyA (g dm-3) ECiw (dS m-1)
1 -1 -1 0.2 1.1 Daily 1.30
2 -1 1 0.2 4.3 Daily 1.30
3 1 -1 1.0 1.1 Daily 1.30
4 1 1 1.0 4.3 Daily 1.30
5 -1.41 (-α)3 0 0.0 2.7 Daily 1.30
6 1.41 (α) 0 1.2 2.7 Daily 1.30
7 0 -1.41 (-α) 0.6 0.3 Daily 1.30
8 0 1.41 (α) 0.6 5.0 Daily 1.30
9 0 0 0.6 2.7 Daily 1.30
10 -1 -1 0.2 1.1 Alternate day 1.30
11 -1 1 0.2 4.3 Alternate day 1.30
12 1 -1 1.0 1.1 Alternate day 1.30
13 1 1 1.0 4.3 Alternate day 1.30
14 -1.41 (-α) 0 0.0 2.7 Alternate day 1.30
15 1.41 (α) 0 1.2 2.7 Alternate day 1.30
16 0 -1.41 (-α) 0.6 0.3 Alternate day 1.30
17 0 1.41 (α) 0.6 5.0 Alternate day 1.30
18 0 0 0.6 2.7 Alternate day 1.30
19 0 0 0.6 2.7 Daily 0.75
20 0 0 0.6 2.7 Alternate day 0.75

1 Number of treatments for each arrangement between polymer doses and levels of irrigation water electrical conductivity = 2k + 2k + 1 (k = 2, no of factors) ∴ 22 + 2 x 2 + 1 = 9; 2 Levels established according to the Box’s central matrix; 3 α = √k

The substrate consisted of a mixture of soil, sand and bovine manure at 3:1:1 proportion, respectively. The soil was collected in the 0-20 cm layer of a profile of Red Yellow Latosol (Santos et al., 2013), at the Chã do Jardim experimental station, located in the municipality of Areia, Paraíba State, Brazil. Fertility attributes were: 5.9 of pH, 0.46 dS m-1 of electrical conductivity (1 soil – 2.5 water suspension); 0.50; 9.47; 1.74; 1.28; 0.23 and 0.88 cmolc dm-3 of Al3+, H++Al3+, Ca2+, Mg2+, Na+, K+, respectively, 45 mg dm-3 of phosphorus and 24.3 g dm-3 of organic matter. The saturation extract, which indicates soil salinity, had pH of 5.9 and electrical conductivity of 1.97 dS m-1. Physical characteristics were: 68.67% of sand, 18.17% of silt and 13.16% of clay, 1.35 and 2.64 g cm-3 of bulk and particle densities, respectively, and porosity of 48.86%. Analyses of substrate were carried out according the methodologies compiled by Teixeira et al. (2017).

In substrate preparation, phosphorus contents were increased to 300 and 100 mg kg-1 of nitrogen were applied (Novais et al., 1991), using single superphosphate and urea, respectively. The water-absorbing polymer was hydrated in distilled water before being mixed with the substrate. Irrigation was performed with saline waters, prepared by the addition of sodium (Na+), calcium (Ca2+) and magnesium (Mg2+) ions in the form of chloride, following the proportion of 5:2:1, respectively, on mass basis (Silva Júnior et al., 1999), in the public-supply water, with electrical conductivity of 0.3 dS m-1. In the irrigation with alternating frequency, every two days, a volume equivalent to 70% of that applied in the daily frequency was applied. The daily water depth was applied to maintain the substrate close to field capacity, until drainage began.

At 120 days after sowing, the seedlings were evaluated for the following parameters: stem diameter at substrate level (SD), using a digital caliper; plant height (PH), measured with millimetric ruler from collar to apical bud; number of leaves (NL), determined by counting. After removal of sugar-apple seedlings, the substrate was sieved and electrical conductivity was measured in the substrate-distilled water suspension at 1:2.5 proportion, respectively. Dickson quality index (DQI) was calculated by the formula (Dickson et al., 1960):



TDM - total dry matter, g;

PH - plant height, cm;

SD - stem diameter, mm;

DMS - dry matter of shoots, stem + leaves, g; and,

RDM - root dry matter, g.

The data were subjected to analysis of variance. Quantitative effects of polymer doses and levels of irrigation water electrical conductivity were subjected to regression analysis, whereas irrigation frequency and container volume were evaluated by contrasts, based on F test (p ≤ 0.05). Statistical analysis was carried out using the software SAS® University Edition.

Results and Discussion

The effects of irrigation water electrical conductivity, water-absorbing polymer, irrigation frequency and container volume on the electrical conductivity of the substrate, growth and quality of sugar-apple seedlings are presented in Table 2.

Table 2 Summary of analyses of variance, regression and contrasts for substrate electrical conductivity (EC), stem diameter at soil level (SD), plant height (PH), number of leaves (NL), and Dickson quality index (DQI) of sugar-apple seedlings at 120 days after sowing as affected by irrigation water electrical conductivity (ECiw), water-absorbing polymer (P), irrigation frequency (F) and container volume 

Source of variation DF Mean square
Block 3 0.9423** 1.0090** 12.1181ns 3.6468ns 0.0181*
Treatment (19) 0.7834** 1.4811** 98.4471** 18.2326** 0.0288**
Frequency (F) 1 0.1741ns 6.3452** 397.2676** 92.0649** 0.0234*
Factorial1 x F 8 0.3314ns 0.0758ns 21.7434* 2.0378ns 0.0055ns
Residual 57 0.2072 0.1328 9.0327 1.8358 0.0055
CV (%) 16.47 8.15 13.97 12.53 31.25
Mean 2.8 dS m-1 4.47 mm 21.5 cm 11 units 0.24
P-Linear 1 0.0230ns - - - -
P-Quadratic 1 0.8460* - - - -
ECiw-Linear 1 0.1772** - - - -
ECiw-Quadratic 1 0.0330ns - - - -
P-Linear x ECiw-Linear 1 0.0072ns - - - -
Regression3/Daily Irrigation
P-Linear 1 - 0.0278ns 5.5641ns 0.0225ns 0.0000ns
P-Quadratic 1 - 0.0343ns 7.4526ns 4.5625ns 0.0059ns
ECiw-Linear 1 - 10.7664** 889.1070** 103.1627** 0.2983**
ECiw-Quadratic 1 - 0.2333ns 15.2106ns 6.3144ns 0.0015ns
P-Linear x ECiw-Linear 1 - 0.0713ns 2.0754ns 0.0986ns 0.0005ns
Regression3/Alternating Irrigation
P-Linear 1 - 0.0091ns 0.2474ns 0.0025ns 0.0015ns
P-Quadratic 1 - 0.0007ns 19.7635ns 4.7977ns 0.0000ns
ECiw-Linear 1 - 5.9833** 181.8127** 34.1364** 0.1005**
ECiw-Quadratic 1 - 0.0652ns 41.7601* 5.7092ns 0.0017ns
P-Linear x ECiw-Linear 1 - 0.0652ns 0.0064ns 0.9597ns 0.0065ns
Y1 1 0.8065ns 0.8337* 29.0703ns 14.0009** 0.0381*
Y2 1 0.0025ns 1.2807** 74.5217** 29.3889** 0.0087ns

1 Refers to the combinations between levels of irrigation water electrical conductivity and water-absorbing polymer doses, using the Box’s central composite; 2 Absence of effect of irrigation frequency; 3 Considering the effect of irrigation frequency; 4 Effect of container volume (1.30 x 0.75 dm3) at daily and (Y1) and alternating (Y2) irrigation frequencies; ns, * and ** Not significant and significant at 0.05 and 0.01 probability levels by F test, respectively

Substrate electrical conductivity was affected by irrigation water salinity and polymer doses (Table 2). Irrigation increased substrate salinity, which changed from 0.5 to 2.3 dS m-1 (360% increase) from the initial condition to the condition of irrigation with 0.3 dS m-1 water, being intensified with the increment in irrigation water electrical conductivity (Figure 1A). It was estimated that unit increase in irrigation water electrical conductivity led to increment of 0.22 dS m-1 or 9% in substrate salinity, which changed from 2.3 to 3.3 dS m-1, respectively, at salinity levels of 0.3 and 5.0 dS m-1. Bezerra et al. (2014) observed that the non-saline character of the substrate used in the production of passion fruit seedlings changed to saline when irrigated using water from 0.57 to 1.1 dS m-1 and to salic with water above 1.1 dS m-1, demonstrating that even water with no limitations with respect to salinity can alter the saline character of the substrate.

* and **: Significant at 0.05 and 0.01 probability levels by F test, respectively

Figure 1 Substrate electrical conductivity after production of sugar-apple seedlings, as a function of irrigation water electrical conductivity (A) and water-absorbing polymer (B) 

Increasing polymer doses had effect on substrate electrical conductivity (Figure 1B), which showed maximum value of 2.8 dS m-1 at the dose of 0.6 g of hydrogel kg-1 of substrate, whereas doses higher than 0.6 g kg-1 caused reduction in substrate electrical conductivity. Navroski et al. (2015), mixing commercial substrate with hydrogel, also found increased salinity with the increment in polymer doses.

Growth and quality of sugar-apple seedlings were affected by irrigation frequency, water salinity and container volume (Table 2). Daily frequency of irrigation led to the highest values of stem diameter (4.8 mm), plant height (23.9 cm), number of leaves (12 units) and Dickson quality index (0.25), and reductions of 13, 20, 20 and 12% were caused when the alternating frequency was adopted (Figures 2A, D, G and J, respectively). This trend was also observed by Zonta et al. (2009), in coffee seedlings, when the increase in irrigation interval reduced the growth in diameter and height. Carvalho et al. (2013), in yellow passion fruit seedlings, and Tsukamoto Filho et al. (2013), in seedlings of Myracrodruon urundeuva Fr. All of them observed that the growth in stem diameter, height and number of leaves decreased when irrigation frequency changed from daily to alternating, and these results can be associated with the water stress that may occur as the intervals between irrigations increase.

Means followed by the same letter do not differ by F test (p ≤ 0.05). ns, * and **: Not significant and significant at 0.05 and 0.01 probability by F test, respectively. Actual effect of the contrast: large container (1.30 dm3) – small container (0.75 dm3)

Figure 2 Stem diameter at soil level (A, B, C), plant height (D, E, F), number of leaves (G, H, I) and Dickson quality index (J, K, L) in sugar-apple seedlings as a function of irrigation frequency, irrigation water electrical conductivity and container volume at daily and alternating irrigation frequency, respectively 

Increase in water salinity, at both irrigation frequencies, reduced growth and quality of sugar-apple seedlings. The reduction rates per unit increase in irrigation water electrical conductivity, at daily and alternating frequencies of irrigation, were, respectively, 5.9 and 5.4% (0.34 and 0.26 mm) for stem diameter (Figure 2B), 9.5 and on average 6% (3.0 and on average 1.4 cm) for plant height (Figure 2E), 7 and 6% (1.0 and 0.7 leaf) for number of leaves (Figure 2H) and 14.2 and 11% (0.06 and 0.04) for Dickson quality index (Figure 2K). Among these parameters, Dickson quality index is the most expressive to indicate the deleterious effect of salt stress of the irrigation water.

Lower growth and reduction in the quality of sugar-apple seedlings due to water salinity are related to the accumulation of salts in the substrate, which leads to a decrease in osmotic potential and consequently in water absorption (Taiz et al., 2017). According to Prisco et al. (2016), salinity directly hampers physiological and biochemical processes of plants. Reduction in the growth of seedlings under saline water irrigation has been reported in various crops, such as papaya (Cavalcante et al., 2010; Sá et al., 2013), cashew (Sousa et al., 2011), sugar-apple (Nunes et al., 2012; Sá et al., 2015) and jackfruit (Oliveira et al., 2017).

In regard to container volume, the effects were associated with the irrigation interval and, when significant, containers with larger volume led to higher means. Growth in diameter (Figure 2C) and number of leaves (Figure 2I) in sugar-apple seedlings, under daily irrigation, increased on average by 0.64 mm (15%) and 2.6 leaves (27%). Under alternating frequency, the increments were 0.82 mm (23%) and 3.8 leaves (60%), when the container volume changed from 0.75 to 1.30 dm3.

For plant height, the gain with the increase in container volume was observed only under alternating frequency of irrigation, from 14.5 to 20.6 cm in the containers of 0.75 to 1.30 dm3, respectively (Figure 2F). Lemos et al. (2010), evaluating container volumes in the production of sugar-apple rootstocks, also found higher values of stem diameter, height and number of leaves when the seedlings were produced in containers with larger volume.

Dickson quality index was also affected by container volume, but only under daily frequency of irrigation, increasing by 100% when the seedlings were produced in the larger container (Figure 2L). Negative effect of the reduction in container volume has also been observed in seedlings of coffee (Vallone et al., 2010), papaya (Mesquita et al., 2012) and passion fruit (Costa et al., 2009a, b). These results can be caused by a greater development and vigor of the root system of plants grown in larger containers, which led to greater availability of nutrients and porous space for root growth (Costa et al., 2009b).


  1. The use of hydrated polymer at the adopted levels had no effect on growth and quality of the seedlings, requiring further studies.

  2. For the production of sugar-apple seedlings, irrigation frequency should be daily and water electrical conductivity should be lower than 2 dS m-1.

  3. Sugar-apple seedlings with greater growth and quality are produced in larger containers (1.30 x 0.75 dm3).


To the company Hydroplan® for providing the waterabsorbing polymer.

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Received: November 14, 2017; Accepted: July 13, 2018; Published: October 17, 2018 (Corresponding author)

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