The working hypothesis of the present study was that, by proper simultaneous control of irrigation (hydroSOStainable products) and crop load (thinning), it is possible to promote the accumulation of bioactive compounds and improve fruit appearance (size and weight). The effects of (i) irrigation status [T0, 120% ETc (estimated crop evapotranspiration); T1, 60% ETc during fruit growth and ripening] and (ii) crop load (A0, no thinning; A1, thinning) on yield and fruit quality were evaluated in two pomegranate cultivars (Wonderful, Wond and Mollar de Elche, ME).
Thinning was effective in increasing the size and weight of fruits. Unfortunately, neither punicalagin, nor total polyphenolic content were positively affected by irrigation and thinning. T1A1 Wond fruits were characterized by high sugar content (glucose and fructose), together with high fruit size and weight. Furthermore, T1A1 ME fruits were characterized by high contents of alcohols and monoterpenoids (providing vegetal and citric flavor notes) and key sensory attributes (color, fruity and fresh pomegranate).
The final recommendation was to use the treatment T1A1 [simultaneous combination of deficit irrigation during fruit growth and ripening (T1) and thinning (A1)], although the positive results were cultivar-dependent.