Integrating soil mulching and subsurface irrigation for optimizing deficit irrigation effectiveness as a water-rationing strategy in tomato production


  • Omar A. ALKHATEEB King Faisal University, College of Agriculture & Food Sciences, Department of Agribusiness and Consumer Sciences, Al-Ahsa 31982; North Dakota State University, Department of Natural Resources Management, Fargo, ND 58102 (SA)
  • Mahmoud A.A. ALI Ain Shams University, Faculty of Agriculture, Department of Horticulture, Cairo, 11566 (EG)
  • Ahmed H. ABDOU King Faisal University, College of Arts, Social Studies Department, Al-Ahsa 31982; Mansoura University, Faculty of Tourism and Hotels, Hotel Studies Department, Mansoura (SA)
  • Khaled ABDELAAL Kafrelsheikh University, Faculty of Agriculture, Agricultural Botany Department, EPCRS Excellence Center, Plant Pathology and Biotechnology Laboratory, 33516 (EG)
  • Nashwa A.I. ABU EL-AZM Ain Shams University, Faculty of Agriculture, Department of Horticulture, Cairo, 11566 (EG)



soil mulching, subsurface irrigation, tomato, water use efficiency, water saving, yield


Irrigated agriculture from now on should be implemented under water scarcity. Hence, this research was designed to determine the optimal interaction between irrigation water-rationing strategy (deficit irrigation), irrigation techniques, and soil mulching to improve water use efficiency and maintaining plant performance as well as yield productivity of tomatoes. The experiment was set up during the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 growing seasons. Three factors were studied: two drip irrigation techniques, surface (SI) and subsurface (SSI) irrigation, and two irrigation rates, 100% ETc for full irrigation (FI) and 60% ETc for deficit-irrigation (DI) along with three treatments of soil mulching, bare soil (BS), organic mulch (OrM) and black polyethylene mulch (BPE). The results demonstrated that applying the absolute regular DI regime significantly reduced vegetative growth, fruit yield, and yield component along with water productivity. Also, it reduced the physiological function measures, and nutrient content of the tomato leaf. Meanwhile, applying the DI regime via the SSI technique and integrated with BPE soil mulching proved the best optimization of the DI negative effect followed by applying the DI regime through either SSI or SI technique combined with OrM or BPE soil mulching, respectively. As a result, it is advisable to use the integration of DI via the SSI accompanied by BPE soil mulching since this is considered a good method for conserving irrigation water from being lost by both evaporation and seepage out of the root zone improving water use efficiency without significantly reducing tomato yield.


Abd El-Wahed MH, Al-Omran AM, Hegazi MM, Ali MM, Ibrahim YAM, Sabagh AE (2020). Salt distribution and potato response to irrigation regimes under varying mulching materials. Plants 9(6):701.

Abdelaal Kh, Attia K, Niedbała G, Wojciechowski T, Hafez Y, Alamery S, Alateeq T, Arafa S (2021b). Mitigation of drought damages by exogenous chitosan and yeast extract with modulating the photosynthetic pigments, antioxidant defense system and improving the productivity of garlic plants. Horticulturae 7(11):510.

Abdelaal Kh, Elafry M, Abdel-Latif I, Elshamy R, Hassan M, Hafez Y (2021a). Pivotal role of yeast and ascorbic acid in improvement the morpho-physiological characters of two wheat cultivars under water deficit stress in calcareous soil. Fresenius Environmental Bulletin 30(3):2554-2565.

Abdelaal Kh, Hafez Y, El-Afry M, Tantawy D, Alshaal T (2018). Effect of some osmoregulators on photosynthesis, lipid peroxidation, antioxidative capacity and productivity of barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) under water deficit stress. Environmental Science and Pollution Research 25:30199-30211.

Abdelaal Kh, Alsubeie M, Hafez Y, Emeran A, Moghanm F, Okasha S, … Ibraheem F (2022). Physiological and biochemical changes in vegetable and field crops under drought, salinity and weeds stresses: control strategies and management. Agriculture 12:2084.

Abdelbaset MM, Dewedar OM, Youssef EA, Molina-Martinez JM, El-Shafie AF (2023). Reducing deep losses using a geotextile layer at different soil depths and irrigation levels for lettuce crop (Lactuca sativa L. var. capitata) (Limor). Agronomy 13:1652.

Abdelhady SA, Abu El-Azm NAI, El-Kafafi EH (2017). Effect of deficit irrigation levels and NPK fertilization rates on tomato growth, yield and fruits quality. Middle East Journal of Agriculture Research 6(3):587-604.

Alghamdi AG, Aly AA, Al-Omran AM, Louki II, Alkhasha A (2023). Tomato yield responses to deficit irrigation and partial root zone drying methods using biochar: a greenhouse experiment in a loamy sand soil using fresh and saline irrigation water. Water 15(15):2797.

Al-Ghobari HM, Dewidar AZ (2017). Deficit irrigation and irrigation methods as on-farm strategies to maximize crop water productivity in dry areas. Journal of Water and Climate Change 9(2):399-409.

Alhashimi A, AL-Huqail AA, Hashem MH, Bakr BM, Fekry WM, Abdel-Aziz HF, Hamdy AE, Abdelraouf RE, Fathy M (2023). Using deficit irrigation strategies and organic mulches for improving yield and water productivity of mango under dry environment conditions. Agriculture 13(7):1415.

Aliabadi1 BT, Hassandokht MR, Etesami H, Alikhani HA, Dehghanisanij H (2019). Effect of mulching on some characteristics of tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) under deficit irrigation. Journal of Agricultural Science and Technology 21(4):927-941.

ALKahtani M, Attia K, Hafez YM, Khan N, Eid AM, Ali MAM, Abdelaal Kh (2020). Chlorophyll fluorescence parameters and antioxidant defense system can display salt tolerance of salt acclimated sweet pepper plants treated with chitosan and plant growth promoting rhizobacteria. Agronomy 10:1180.

AlKahtani M, Hafez YM, Attia K, Rashwan E, Husnain LA (2021). Evaluation of silicon and proline application on the oxidative machinery in drought-stressed sugar beet. Antioxidants 10(3):398.

Alkhasha A, Al-Omran A, Louki I (2019). Impact of deficit irrigation and addition of biochar and polymer on soil salinity and tomato productivity. Canadian Journal of Soil Science 99(2):380-394.

Allen RG, Pereira SL, Raes D, Smith M (1998). Crop Evapotranspiration Guidelines for Computing Crop Water Requirements. Irrigation and Drainage Paper, Rome, pp 56.

Al-Mansor AN, El-Gindy AM, Hegazi MM, El-Bagoury KF, Abd-El Hady SA (2015). Effect of surface and subsurface trickle irrigation on yield and water use efficiency of tomato crop under deficit irrigation conditions. Misr Journal of Agricultural Engineering 32(3): 1021 -1040.

Alordzinu KE, Appiah SA, AL Aasmi A, Darko RO, Li J, Lan Y, Adjibolosoo D, Lian C, Wang H, Qiao S, Liao J (2022). Evaluating the influence of deficit irrigation on fruit yield and quality indices of tomatoes grown in sandy loam and silty loam soils. Water 14(11):1753.

Al-Selwey WA, Alsadon AA, Al-Doss AA, Solieman TH, Dewir YH, Ibrahim AA (2021). Effect of deficit irrigation on total yield, fruit physical characteristics, and nutritional value of four drought tolerant tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) genotypes. Journal of Agricultural Science and Technology 23(5):1105-1118.

AOAC (2005). The Official methods of analytical, G.D.C. Horwitz, William, and George W. Latimer (Eds). Official methods of analysis of AOAC International. Gaithersburg, Md: AOAC International.

Arafa S, Attia K, Niedbała G, Piekutowska M, Alamery S (2021). Seed priming boost adaptation in pea plants under drought stress. Plants 10:2201.

Asres LA (2023) Alternative techniques of irrigation water management for improving crop water productivity. Reviews in Agricultural Science 11:36-53.

Ayankojo IT, Morgan KT, Kadyampakeni D, Liu GD (2020). Tomato growth, yield, and root development, soil nitrogen and water distribution as affected by nitrogen and irrigation rates on a Florida sandy soil. HortScience 55(11).

Badr MA, El-Tohamy WA, Abou Hussein SD, Gruda N (2018). Tomato yield, physiological response, water and nitrogen use efficiency under deficit and partial root zone drying irrigation in an arid region. Journal of Applied Botany and Food Quality 91:332-340.

Bogale A, Nagle M, Latif S, Aguila M, Müller J (2016). Regulated deficit irrigation and partial root-zone drying irrigation impact bioactive compounds and antioxidant activity in two select tomato cultivars. Scientia Horticulturae 213:115-124.

Camp CR, Lamm FR, Evans RG, Phene CJ (2000). Subsurface drip irrigation–Ppst, present and future. In: Proceedings of the Fourth Decennial Irrigation Symposium, Phoenix, AZ, USA, 14–16 November 2000; pp 363-372.

Chai Q, Gan Y, Zhao C, Xu H, Waskom RM, Niu Y, Siddique K (2016). Regulated deficit irrigation for crop production under drought stress. A review. Agronomy for Sustainable Development 36(3):1-21.

Dawa KK, Al-Gazar TM, Abdel-Fatah AM (2019). Response of tomato plants to water irrigation levels and some foliar applications under drip irrigation system: 1- vegetative growth and chemical constituents of L. Journal of Plant Production 10(3): 265- 273.

El-Labad SAM, Mahmoud MI, Abo El-Kasem SA, El-Kassas AI (2019). Effect of irrigation level on growth and yield of tomato under El-Aarish region conditions. Sainai Journal of Applied Sciences 8(1):9-18.

FAO (2022). ETo calculator is a software developed by the Land and Water Division of FAO. Its main function is to calculate Reference evapotranspiration (ETo) according to FAO standards.

Fixen P, Grove J (1990). Testing soils for phosphorus. Soil Testing and Plant Analysis 3:141-180.

Gathungu GK, Aguyoh JN, Isutsa DK (2016). Improving seed potato leaf area index, stomatal conductance and chlorophyll accumulation efficiency through irrigation water, nitrogen and phosphorus nutrient management. Journal of Agricultural Studies 4(1).

Gomez KA, Gomez AA (1984). Statistical procedures for agricultural Researches. 2nd Ed., John Wiley & Sons, New York U.S.A., pp 97-107.

Hafez Y, Attia K., Alamery S, Ghazy A, Al-Dosse A (2020). Beneficial effects of biochar and chitosan on antioxidative capacity, osmolytes accumulation, and anatomical characters of water-stressed barley plants. Agronomy 10:630.

He T, Li H, Shi S, Liu X, Liu H, Shi Y, Jiao W, Zhou J (2023). Preliminary results detailing the effect of the cultivation system of mulched ridge with double row on solanacious vegetables obtained by using the 2 ZBX-2A vegetable transplanter. Applied Science 13:1092. app13021092

Hedges LJ, Lister CE (2005). Nutritional attributes of tomatoes. Crop and Food Research Confidential Report No. 1391:1‒11. Christchurch, New Zealand.

Howell T (2001). Enhancing water use efficiency in irrigated agriculture. Agronomy Journal 93(2):281-289.

Hu R (2023). Overview of water-saving irrigation methods in arid/semi-arid areas. In: E3S Web of Conferences 191:02001. EDP Sciences.

Ingrao C, Strippoli R, Lagioia G, Huisingh D (2023). Water scarcity in agriculture: An overview of causes, impacts and approaches for reducing the risks. Heliyon 9(8).

Khalifa RM (2023). Effects of inadequate drip irrigation and organo-mineral fertilizer on tomato production, quality and water use efficiency in sandy soils. Egyptian Journal of Soil Science 63(3):325-338.

Khapte PS, Kumar P, Burman U, Kumar P (2019). Deficit irrigation in tomato: Agronomical and physio-biochemical implications. Scientia Horticulturae 248(5):256-264.

Khedr R, Aboukhadrah S, El- Hag D, Elmohamady E, Abdelaal Kh (2023). Ameliorative effects of nano silica and some growth stimulants on water relations, biochemical and productivity of wheat under saline soil conditions, Fresenius Environmental Bulletin 32(1):375-384.

Kim HH, Goins GD, Wheeler RM, Sager JC (2004). Stomatal conductance of lettuce grown under or exposed to different light qualities. Annals of Botany 94(5):691-697.

Knudsen D, Peterson GA, Pratt PF (1982). Lithium, sodium, and potassium. In: ‘Methods of soil analysis. Chemical and microbiological properties. Agronomy 9(2). 2nd Ed. Page A (Ed). Soil Science Society of America: Madison, WI. pp 225-246.

Liu H, Li H, Ning H, Zhang X, Li S, Pang J, Wang G, Sun J (2019). Optimizing irrigation frequency and amount to balance yield, fruit quality and water use efficiency of greenhouse tomato. Agricultural Water Management 226:105787.

Ma D, Chen L, Qu H, Wang Y, Misselbrook T, Jiang R (2018). Impacts of plastic film mulching on crop yields, soil water, nitrate, and organic carbon in Northwestern China: A meta-analysis. Agricultural Water Management 202:166-173.

Mahadeen AY (2014). Effect of polyethylene black plastic mulch on growth and yield of two summer vegetable crops under rain fed conditions under semi-arid region conditions. American Journal of Agricultural and Biological Sciences 9:202-207.

MALR (2018). Agriculture statistics bulletin. Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation, Economic Affairs Sector, Central Administration of Agricultural Economy, Cairo.

Mati BM (2011). In-field water management in irrigated agriculture: adaptable best practices. Training Manual No. 8. Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), Nile Equatorial Lakes Subsidiary Action Programme (NELSAP) - Regional Agricultural and Trade Programme (RATP), Bujumbura, Burundi.

Parkash V, Singh S (2020). A review on potential plant-based water stress indicators for vegetable crops. Sustainability 12(10):3945.

Ragab ME1, Sawan OM, Fawzy HZF, El-Bassiony AM, El-Sawy SM (2018). Increasing the productivity of tomato plants grown in sandy soil under deficit irrigation water conditions. Research & Reviews: Journal of Agriculture and Allied Sciences 7(2):76-87.

Rasheed ZK (2020). Drip irrigation in different soils texture. Iraqi Journal of Agricultural Sciences 51(2):712-722.

Rehema EA, El Kassas MS, Shalaby AAS, El-Sebsy AA (2019). Soil response to irrigation water regimes and drip irrigation applications. Sinai Journal of Applied Sciences 8(3):237-250.

Salem E, Kenawey K, Saudy H, Mubarak M (2021). Soil mulching and deficit irrigation effect on sustainability of nutrients availability and uptake, and productivity of maize grown in calcareous soils. Communications in Soil Science and Plant Analysis 52:1745-1761.

Sang H, Wambua R, Raude J (2020). Yield response, water use and water productivity of tomato under deficit sub-surface drip irrigation and mulching. Journal of Sustainable Research in Engineering 6(2):47-55.

Sheta MH, Fayed MH (2021). Productivity and water use efficiency of summer squash crop under two methods of irrigation water application. Egyptian Journal of Soil Science 61(1):1-11.

Singh AK, Kamal S (2012). Effect of black plastic mulch on soil temperature and tomato yield in mid hills of Garhwal Himalayas. Journal of Horticulture and Forestry 4(4):78-80.

Siyal AA, Skaggs TH (2009). Measured and simulated soil wetting patterns under porous clay pipe sub-surface irrigation. Agricultural Water Management 96:893-904.

Smart RE, Bingham GE (1974). Rapid estimates of relative water content. Plant Physiology 53(2):258-260.

Thomas RL, Sheard RW, Moyer JR (1967). Comparison of conventional and automated procedures for nitrogen, phoshporus, and potassium analysis of plant materials using a single digestion. Agronomy Journal 59:240-243.

Tswanya MN, Olaniyi JO, Alamu LO (2017). Reponses of tomato (Lycopersicon lycopersicum Mill), soil temperature and soil moisture content to mulch material and mulching rate in Ogbomoso and Mokwa, Nigeria. Current Trends Biomedical Engineering & Biosciences 10(2):33-41

Wang H, Wang N, Quan H, Zhang F, Fan J, Feng H, Cheng M, Liao Z, Wang X, Xiang Y (2022). Yield and water productivity of crops, vegetables and fruits under subsurface drip irrigation: a global meta-analysis. Agriculture Water Management 269.

Wang X, Xing Y (2017). Evaluation of the effects of irrigation and fertilization on tomato fruit yield and quality: A principal component analysis. Scientific Reports 7:350.

Wei Z, Du T, Li X, Fang L, Liu F (2018). Simulation of stomatal conductance and water use efficiency of tomato leaves exposed to different irrigation regimes and air CO2 concentrations by a modified "Ball-Berry" model. Frontiers in Plant Science 9(9):445.

Yang B, Fu P, Lu J, Ma F, Sun X, Fang Y (2022). Regulated deficit irrigation: an effective way to solve the shortage of agricultural water for horticulture. Stress Biology 2-28.

Zhang H, Xiong Y, Huang G, Xu X, Huang Q (2017). Effects of water stress on processing tomatoes yield, quality and water use efficiency with plastic mulched drip irrigation in sandy soil of the Hetao Irrigation District. Agricultural Water Management 179(C):205-214.




How to Cite

ALKHATEEB, O. A., ALI, M. A., ABDOU, A. H., ABDELAAL, K., & ABU EL-AZM, N. A. (2024). Integrating soil mulching and subsurface irrigation for optimizing deficit irrigation effectiveness as a water-rationing strategy in tomato production. Notulae Botanicae Horti Agrobotanici Cluj-Napoca, 52(1), 13514.



Research Articles
DOI: 10.15835/nbha52113514

Most read articles by the same author(s)