Citrus species are frequently subjected to water and saline stresses worldwide. We evaluated the effects of diurnal changes in the evaporative demands and soil water contents on the plant physiology of grapefruit and mandarin crops under saline reclaimed (RW) and transfer (TW) water conditions, combined with two irrigation strategies, fully irrigated (fI) and non-irrigated (nI). The physiological responses were different depending on the species. Grapefruit showed an isohydric pattern, which restricted the use of the leaf water potential (Ψl) as a plant water status indicator. Its water status was affected by salinity (RW) and water stress (nI), mainly as the combination of both stresses (RW-nI); however, mandarin turned out to be relatively more tolerant to salinity and more sensitive to water stress, mainly because of its low hydraulic conductance (K) levels, showing a critical drop in Ψl that led to severe losses of root-stem (Kroot-stem) and canopy (Kcanopy) hydraulic conductance in TW-nI. This behavior was not observed in RW-nI because a reduction in canopy volume as an adaptive characteristic was observed; thus, mandarin exhibited more anisohydric behavior compared to grapefruit, but isohydrodynamic since its hydrodynamic water potential gradient from roots to shoots (ΔΨplant) was relatively constant across variations in stomatal conductance (gs) and soil water potential. The gs was considered a good plant water status indicator for irrigation scheduling purposes in both species, and its responses to diurnal VPD rise and soil drought were strongly correlated with Kroot-stem. ABA did not show any effect on stomatal regulation, highlighting the fundamental role of plant hydraulics in driving stomatal closure.
Keywords: ABA; grapefruit; hydraulic conductance; mandarin; saline stress; stomatal conductance; water relations; water stress.