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Journal of Arid Land  2020, Vol. 12 Issue (3): 495-507    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-020-0012-y
Research article     
Evaluation of the efficiency of irrigation methods on the growth and survival of tree seedlings in an arid climate
Zahra JAFARI1,*(), SayedHamid MATINKHAH1, Mohammad R MOSADDEGHI2, Mostafa TARKESH1
1 Department of Natural Resources, Isfahan University of Technology, Isfahan 8415683111, Iran
2 Department of Soil Science, Department of Agriculture, Isfahan University of Technology, Isfahan 8415683111, Iran
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Scarce and scattered precipitation in arid regions is detrimental for newly planted seedlings. It is essential to provide required water storage for seedlings in restoration projects in the first year of their establishment. The subsurface irrigation can be much more effective than the surface irrigation because of the regulation of water availability and reduction in water evaporation. We studied the effect of surface and subsurface irrigation methods on the growth and survival of four common tree species including heaven tree (Ailanthus altissima (Mill.) Swingle), China berry (Melia azedarach L.), white mulberry (Morus alba L.), and black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia L.) by installing underground clay reservoirs with different permeabilities in Isfahan City, Iran. Different amounts of animal manure and wheat straw were mixed with clay fraction and cooked in a pottery kiln at 900°C to produce reservoirs with different permeabilities. The experimental treatments consisting of irrigation and tree species were considered with a factorial arrangement in a completely randomized design with three replications in 2016 and 2017. Leaf water potential of seedlings, which is indirectly related to drought resistance, was measured by a portable pressure chamber. The results showed that saplings height, basal diameter, number of leaves, chlorophyll content and stomatal conductance were significantly (P<0.05) higher in the subsurface irrigation with low permeability than in the surface irrigation, but the number of branches of the studied species were not significantly (P>0.05) affected by the irrigation methods and different permeabilities of clay reservoirs. The clay reservoirs with low and medium permeabilities constantly provide better conditions for plant growth, and water with lower pressure and longer time intervals to the plant roots as compared with the reservoirs with high permeability. Analysis of variance of the data showed that year and interaction between year and permeability of reservoir had significant effects (P<0.05) on all growth parameters, except for the chlorophyll content. In addition, the highest percentage of survival was 100% associated with the subsurface irrigation and the control treatment had the lowest survival percentages of 60%, 70%, 80% and 100% for M. alba, M. azedarach, A. altissima and R. pseudoacacia, respectively. Finally, the values of leaf water potential showed that R. pseudoacacia was the most drought resistant species.

Key wordssubsurface irrigation      clay reservoirs      permeability      restoration      arid area     
Received: 07 June 2019      Published: 10 May 2020
Corresponding Authors:
About author: *Corresponding author: Zahra JAFARI (E-mail:
Cite this article:

Zahra JAFARI, SayedHamid MATINKHAH, Mohammad R MOSADDEGHI, Mostafa TARKESH. Evaluation of the efficiency of irrigation methods on the growth and survival of tree seedlings in an arid climate. Journal of Arid Land, 2020, 12(3): 495-507.

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Fig. 1 Clay reservoirs used in this study (a) and view of the project implementation (b)
Reservoir dimension Parameter
1.00 Thickness (cm)
50.00 Height (cm)
10.00 Inner diameter (cm)
11.00 Outer diameter (cm)
1916.97 Area (cm2)
4749.25 Volume (cm3)
Table 1 Geometric properties of the clay reservoirs used in this study
SAR Mg2++Ca2+
CO3- (mmol/L) pH EC
1.44 2.40 1.57 13.00 6.00 2.00 8.04 0.29
Table 2 Chemical properties of the irrigation water
(m3/100 m3)
(kg/100 kg)
(kg/100 kg)
(kg/100 kg)
Clay (kg/100 kg) Sand (kg/100 kg) EC
pH Depth
51.00 1.36 8.40 13.50 29.50 21.80 48.70 2.00 8.81 0-50
Table 3 Soil physical and chemical properties
Permeability Percentage of water depletion after 24 h (%) Materials used for preparation Clay reservoir type
Low 0.22 95% clay+5% manure R1
0.24 95% clay+5% wheat straw R2
Medium 0.30 100% clay soil R3
High 0.48 60% clay+40% manure R4
0.50 60% clay+40% wheat straw R5
Table 4 Water depletion percentage of the clay reservoirs with different permeabilities after 24 h
Fig. 2 Water depletion percentage of the clay reservoirs with different permeabilities with time. The clay reservoir types of R1-R5 are explained in Table 4.
Species Source of variation df Mean square
Height Basal diameter Number of branches Number of leaves Chlorophyll content Stomatal conductance
A. altissima Permeability 3 1070.83* 26.06* 0.15ns 135.15* 69.59* 906.80*
Replication (Permeability) 8 191.66ns 7.86* 0.12ns 2.25ns 11.66ns 9.09ns
Year 1 4537.50* 270.68* 22.04* 1365.04* 44.17ns 181.50*
Permeability×Year 3 2181.94* 104.17* 0.70ns 3.15* 199.69ns 5.91*
Error 8 133.33 2.13 0.29 4.50 14.10 20.54
R2 - 0.93 0.97 0.91 0.98 0.86 0.94
CV - 10.78 5.91 21.96 7.63 17.00 15.11
M. azadirachta Permeability 3 1310.50* 123.56* 0.37ns 11,929.15* 661.19* 2512.60*
Replication (Permeability) 8 41.79ns 3.42ns 0.37ns 318.70* 33.75ns 54.56ns
Year 1 7848.16* 1757.53* 3.37* 1998.37* 287.38ns 490.51*
Permeability×Year 3 1097.16* 111.94* 1.04ns 84.37* 788.71ns 25.73*
Error 8 24.29 1.80 0.37 33.12 67.48 47.57
R2 - 0.98 0.99 0.77 0.99 0.90 0.95
CV - 3.56 4.47 18.14 2.77 20.60 16.77
M. alba Permeability 3 1393.04* 41.08* 11.93ns 21,643.15* 244.58* 1041.38*
Replication (Permeability) 8 62.91ns 3.23ns 1.08ns 770.75* 60.57ns 10.78ns
Year 1 187.04* 244.60* 12.04* 2147.04* 565.60ns 1.38*
Permeability×Year 3 278.04* 32.52* 0.37ns 16.15* 226.85ns 28.21*
Error 8 47.91 1.19 0.41 113.50 66.58 5.64
R2 - 0.93 0.98 0.94 0.98 0.82 0.98
CV - 5.80 4.89 4.38 3.91 46.68 7.85
R. pseudoacacia Permeability 3 2861.77* 184.93* 25.37ns 2761.48* 81.90* 983.84*
Replication (Permeability) 8 334.00ns 33.54ns 6.66ns 63.83ns 11.76ns 26.53ns
Year 1 3174.00* 96.12* 18.37* 1426.04* 0.46ns 1323.13*
Permeability×Year 3 1251.77* 253.37* 2.37ns 90.26* 29.94ns 28.23*
Error 8 332.33 1.58 4.00 118.33 13.51 13.06
R2 - 0.87 0.97 0.82 0.91 0.79 0.97
CV - 15.10 6.50 24.87 23.71 30.95 11.32
Table 5 Analysis of variance of the growth indicators of plant species under different treatments
Year Species Growth indicator Reservoir's permeability treatment
Low Medium High Control
2016 A. altissima Height (cm) 115.0±0.01a 105.3±5.77a 90.7±15.27b 80.3±25.10b
Basal diameter (cm) 24.5±1.5a 22.9±0.8a 20. 6±3.9a 15.0±3.6b
No. of branches 2±0.5a 2±0.9a 2±1.0a 2±1.0a
No. of leaves 26±1.5a 24±3.2a 19±3.1b 16±5.1c
Relative chlorophyll content 27.69±5.1a 25.39±3.8a 20.44±7.1b 17.40±2.1c
Stomatal conductance (mmol/(m2?s)) 40.86±3.3a 37.47±1.5a 29.36±5.9b 23.26±4.6c
M. azedarach Height (cm) 143.3±0.10a 133.3±2.80a 110.0±5.80b 103.3±5.70b
Basal diameter (cm) 23.5±0.2a 22.7±2.5a 19.6±0.2a 19.4±0.1a
No. of branches 3±2.0a 3±1.2a 3±3.0a 3±1.0a
No. of leaves 234±1.0a 218±1.5a 195±4.9b 168±6.2c
Chlorophyll content 60.15±5.0a 57.67±3.9a 45.95±7.2b 40.82±2.0c
Stomatal conductance (mmol/(m2?s)) 60.96±3.0a 55.90±6.9a 47.46±1.8b 39.93±1.9c
M. alba Height (cm) 130.0±0.01a 123.6±6.01a 110.0±8.00b 101.6±2.88b
Basal diameter 23.0±2.0a 20.6±1.2a 20.0±1.3a 17.3±0.2b
No. of branches 14±3.0a 14±3.0a 13±3.0a 13±3.0a
No. of leaves 232±7.8a 328±3.0a 288±10.0b 250±9.0c
Relative chlorophyll content 39.47±7.3a 36.10±3.0a 27.16±2.1b 25.13±2.3b
Stomatal conductance (mmol/(m2?s)) 44.70±2.5a 42.20±1.4a 36.60±2.7b 30.50±2.1c
R. pseudoacacia Height (cm) 130.0±5.70a 126.5±3.00a 113.3±0.50b 96.6±5.80c
Basal diameter (cm) 19.4±0.4a 19.3±2.0a 18.3±0.8a 14.3±0.0b
No. of branches 6±3.0a 6±3.0a 6±3.0a 6±3.0a
No. of leaves 59±3.0a 50±1.0a 40±3.1b 32±2.0c
Relative chlorophyll content 18.19±2.5a 17.77±1.4a 12.95±7.6b 12.02±5.7a
Stomatal conductance (mmol/(m2?s)) 28.60±3.5a 28.60±2.0a 21.23±3.6b 21.00±1.3b
2017 A. altissima Height (cm) 146.6±5.77a 137.3±5.01a 113.3±3.01b 90.0±5.10c
Basal diameter (cm) 35.1±2.2a 30.1±2.9a 26.64±1.1a 17.6±3.1b
No. of branches 5±3.0a 5±3.0a 5±3.0a 5±3.0a
No. of leaves 40±1.2a 37±1.0a 31±3.6b 29±1.5b
Chlorophyll content 29.20±0.0a 27.31±3.1a 22.19±1.6b 19.26±1.0c
Stomatal conductance (mmol/(m2?s)) 41.26±6.0a 37.46±4.5a 30.86±6.0b 23.36±10.0c
M. azedarach Height (cm) 175.6±4.10a 168.3±3.77a 147.3±5.13b 133.3±2.09b
Basal diameter (cm) 31.0±1.5a 29.6±2.0a 26.8±0.3a 20.6±4.0b
No. of branches 8±3.0a 8±3.0a 8±3.0a 8±3.0a
No. of leaves 360±7.0a 341±7.5a 314±3.1b 280±4.5c
Relative chlorophyll content 62.00±2.0a 57.75±3.3a 47.16±6.0b 40.31±1.2b
Stomatal conductance (mmol/(m2?s)) 60.70±3.8a 58.00±3.2a 49.13±5.0b 40.73±2.3c
M. alba Height (cm) 158.6±1.76a 145.0±7.00a 128.0±3.21b 115.3±3.16c
Basal diameter (cm) 26.6±3.0a 23.1±3.0a 23.0±2.0a 20.7±0.0b
No. of branches 27±3.0a 27±2.0a 26±3.0a 26±2.5a
No. of leaves 500±9.1a 470±6.9a 391±5.7b 360±6.1c
Relative chlorophyll content 48.47±1.8a 46.1±7.5a 38.16±3.7b 32.13±1.3b
Stomatal conductance (mmol/(m2?s)) 46.80±1.6a 42.23±1.01a 30.86±4.6b 29.60±4.0b
R. pseudoacacia Height (cm) 146.6±8.01a 139.6±5.77a 123.6±3.01b 106.6±3.20c
Basal diameter (cm) 27.5±2.0a 26.1±2.0a 25.6±1.0a 18.0±3.1b
No. of branches 14±0.0a 14±3.0a 15±3.0a 16±3.0a
No. of leaves 83±1.3a 79±2.1a 69±3.0b 60±6.0c
Relative chlorophyll content 17.57±2.5a 16.81±0.0a 12.55±1.3b 11.12±5.4c
Stomatal conductance (mmol/(m2?s)) 34.46±5.8a 32.30±0.0a 24.46±4.5b 22.00±3.7b
Table 6 Means' comparisons of growth indictors of plant species under different treatments
Surface irrigation (%) Subsurface irrigation (%) Species
80 100 A. altissima
70 100 M. azedarach
60 100 M. alba
100 100 R. pseudoacacia
Table 7 Survival percentage of the tree saplings as affected by the irrigation systems
Species Treatment Mean±SE (bar) Mean square F P
R. pseudoacacia Before irrigation -31.33±7.20 652.68 24.57 0.01
After irrigation -16.58±1.11
A. altissima Before irrigation -42.00±10.55 1788.52 30.69 0.01
After irrigation -17.58±2.24
M. azedarach Before irrigation -45.25±10.60 1575.52 19.81 0.01
After irrigation -22.33±6.83
M. alba Before irrigation -50.00±6.48 588.00 7.33 0.02
After irrigation -36.00±0.88
Table 8 Analysis of variance of leaf water potential of the tree saplings as affected by the irrigation systems
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