Effect of modern irrigation methods on growth and energy production of sweet sorghum (var. Keller) on a dry year in Central Greece
The subject of this project is to estimate the growth and productivity of sweet sorghum [Sorghum bicolor (L.)] var. Keller, under two different irrigation methods - the conventional surface drip method (two treatments) and the subsurface drip method - in a dry year in Central Greece, as an energy crop for the production of bio-ethanol. A field experiment was carried out on the experimental farm of the University of Thessaly during 2005, comprising of a completely randomized block design with four treatments in four blocks, including control (non-irrigated). In the treatments of surface drip method the evapotranspiration needs were satisfied by using full (100% ETm) and supplement (80% ETm) irrigation doses, while in the treatments of subsurface drip method only supplement irrigation water was used (80% ETm) with the aim of more efficient water conservation. Irrigation was fully automated, and application depths were determined, using a class A open evaporation pan for matching the evapotranspiration needs. The growth of the crop was measured by means of plant height and leaf area index, which were determined periodically throughout the growing period. Fresh and dry biomass productions were measured over six harvests covering the entire growth and production process of cultivation. The results of the first year demonstrated a clear superiority of the subsurface drip method on plant heights, leaf area index and total fresh and dry biomass production compared with the surface drip method for equal values of irrigation water. Maximum yield was attained by mid-September, before crop maturation, something which should be taken into consideration when choosing the best harvesting time of the crop. After late September, large negative growth rates were recorded, resulting in an appreciable drop in the final fresh and dry matter yield. (c) 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.