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Bud development, flowering and fruit set of Moringa oleifera Lam. (Horseradish Tree) as affected by various irrigation levels
Moringa oleifera is becoming increasingly popular as an industrial crop due to its multitude of useful attributes as water purifier, nutritional supplement and biofuel feedstock. Given its tolerance to sub-optimal growing conditions, most of the current and anticipated cultivation areas are in medium to low rainfall areas. This study aimed to assess the effect of various irrigation levels on floral initiation, flowering and fruit set. Three treatments namely, a 900 mm (900IT), 600 mm (600IT) and 300 mm (300IT) per annum irrigation treatment were administered through drip irrigation, simulating three total annual rainfall amounts. Individual inflorescences from each treatment were tagged during floral initiation and monitored throughout until fruit set. Flower bud initiation was highest at the 300IT and lowest at the 900IT for two consecutive growing seasons. Fruit set on the other hand, decreased with the decrease in irrigation treatment. Floral abortion, reduced pollen viability as well as moisture stress in the style were contributing factors to the reduction in fruiting/yield observed at the 300IT. Moderate water stress prior to floral initiation could stimulate flower initiation, however, this should be followed by sufficient irrigation to ensure good pollination, fruit set and yield.