Freshwater availability is declining in most of semi-arid and arid regions across the world, including the southwestern United States. The use of marginal quality groundwater has been increasing for sustaining agriculture in these arid regions. Reverse Osmosis (RO) can treat brackish groundwater, but the possibility of using an RO concentrate for irrigation needs further exploration. This greenhouse study evaluates the water use and yield responses of five selected chile pepper (Capsicum annuum L.) cultivars irrigated with natural brackish groundwater and RO concentrate. The four saline water treatments used for irrigation were tap water with an electrical conductivity (EC) of 0.6 dS m−1 (control), groundwater with EC 3 and 5 dS m−1, and an RO concentrate with EC 8 dSm−1. The evapotranspiration (ET) of all chile pepper cultivars decreased and the leaching fraction (LF) increased, particularly in the 5 dS m−1 and 8 dS m−1 irrigation treatments. Based on the water use efficiency (WUE) of the selected chile pepper cultivars, brackish water with an EC ≤ 3 dS/m could be used for irrigation in scarce freshwater areas while maintaining the appropriate LFs. A piecewise linear function resulted in a threshold soil electrical conductivity (ECe) ranging between 1.0–1.3 dSm−1 for the tested chile pepper cultivars. Both piecewise linear and sigmoid non-linear functions suggested that the yield reductions in chile peppers irrigated with Ca2+ rich brackish groundwater were less than those reported in studies using an NaCl-dominant saline solution. Further research is needed to understand the role of supplementary calcium in improving the salt tolerance of chile peppers.
- Capsicum annuum
- Leaching fraction