The study was conducted during the dry season in 2016 at the Irrigation Research farm of Institute for Agricultural Research, Samaru, Zaria, to determine the effect of deficit irrigation and mulch on yield and water use of Cucumber crop. The experiment consisted of four levels of moisture depletion at 0%, 25%, 50%, and 75% (I100, I75, I50, and I25) of irrigation water application depths and three mulch types Rice straw mulch; Black polythene mulch, and No mulch (RSM, BPM, and NM) respectively. This was replicated three times laid in a split plot design (SPD). The irrigation water was allocated to the main plot, while mulch material was assign at the sub-plots. Water was applied to the basin using a PVC pipe of 7.5 cm diameter and 50 cm length to serve as an orifice. The soil moisture was measured and monitored during the growing season of the crop, through an access tubes installed in each basin at three different depths of 0 – 15, 15 – 30, 30 – 45 cm coupled with theta probe moisture instrument. The result showed that application of 25% water deficit (I75), combined with rice straw mulch gives the highest yield of 14.60 t/ha when compared to irrigation at 25% water deficit (I75) with Black polythene, and No Mulch with the same irrigation level. The yield obtained from the treatments ranges from 4.33 t/ha to 14.60 t/ha. The least yield was obtained from the treatment (I25NM), while the highest yield was obtained from the treatment (I75RSM). The highest crop water use efficiency (CWUE) and irrigation water use efficiency were 93.7 kg/ha/mm and 90.3 kg/ha/mm at 0% level of moisture depletion, respectively, while the least is at 25% moisture depletion with value of 65.3 kg/ha/mm and 65.5 kg/ha/mm, respectively. The yield response factor (Ky) for the total growing season obtained for RSM was 1.013; for BPM was 1.243 and for NM was 0.549, respectively. The study showed that crop water use (CWU) of the Cucumber crop decreased with increase in irrigation deficit. The Kc values ranges from 0.34 – 0.48 for initial stage, 0.43 – 0.66 for development stage, 0.30 – 0.85 for mid-season stage, and 0.30 – 0.69 for late season stage. From the results obtained it shows that applying management methods such as the use of mulch cover for better use of water resources and in order to minimize water stress appears to be essential. Also the results showed that the interaction effects of irrigation and mulch treatments were significant on yield, length, weight and number of fruits.

1.1       Background of the Study
Cucumber (Cucumis sativa L) is one of the monoecious annual crops in the Cucurbitaceae family that has been cultivated by man for over 3, 000 years (Adetula and Denton, 2003; Okonmah, 2011). With respect to economic importance, it ranks fourth after tomatoes, cabbage and onion in Asia (Eifediyi and Remison, 2011), and second after tomato in Western Europe (Eifediyi and Remison, 2011), though its place has not been ranked in tropical Africa because of limited use. Soft and succulent, the vegetable crop is cherished by man and eaten in salads or sliced into stew in tropical regions. Its juice is often recommended as source of silicon to improve the health and complexion of the skin (Duke, 1997). Cucumber is a very good source of vitamins A, C, K, and B6, potassium, pantothenic acid, magnesium, phosphorus, copper and manganese (Vimala et al., 1999). The ascorbic acid and caffeic acid contained in cucumber help to reduce skin irritation and swollen (Okonmah, 2011).

Deficit irrigation can play an important role in increasing water use efficiency (WUE) and reduced amount of irrigation. Deficit irrigation generally refers to fully irrigated crops where water is reduced or withheld during certain growth stages. One of important method to save irrigation water and increase WUE is deficit irrigation (DI) (Patane and Casentino, 2009), in which crops deliberately allowed some degree of deficit irrigation through the whole growth stage or at certain stages of the growth (Topcu et.al, 2007). The adoption of deficit irrigation required the knowledge of crop evapotranspiration (ETc), crop response to water deficit, critical stages of growth under water deficit and economic impacts of yield reduction. The development of new
irrigation scheduling techniques such as deficit irrigation and identifying the sensitive crop growth stage to water stress is one way to enhance crop productivity with less water (Bekele and Tilahun, 2007).

One of the major factors that hinder all year production of vegetable is the inadequate or no water supply to the crops during the dry season, especially in the semi-arid area of Nigeria. Unfortunately, it is more profitable to grow vegetable during this dry period (Ojo et al., 2011) reason being realization of higher quality product due to low disease pressure. So deficit irrigation can serve as a useful tool to improve irrigation management in arid and semiarid area (Holzapfel et al., 1988).

Mulch conserves soil moisture, retained heat as well as it suppresses weed growth (Sharfuddin and Ssiddique, 1985; Ahmad et al., 2007). In addition to weeds control, mulch increase soil temperature, allow early plant harvest in the season. Mulch has been used in many forms for years with excellent results for the production of early, high quality vegetables. Mulch decrease watering frequency and prevent fertilizers from leaching by retaining soil moisture, saves time and money. Mulch has a distinct advantage for increase crop production. The practice conserves moisture by reducing the amount of soil water lost through evaporation, maintains soil uniform temperature, minimize soil erosion and compaction from heavy rains and aid in water penetration Mulching involves the use of materials to cover the cropped soil surface with the aim of reducing evaporation, conserving soil moisture, modifying soil temperature, structure and improving aeration (Plauborg et al., 1996, Hassan, 1996).

1.2       Statement of Problem
The growing increase of water scarcity and competition for water resources are major threat to agriculture in arid and semi-Arid region of Nigeria. Water scarcity is gradually becoming a constraint to agricultural production. Improper irrigation management leads to a number of plant disorders and diseases, in a situation of under irrigation or over irrigation both of which have adverse effects on crop yield. Under condition of limited water application, crop production is adversely affected by reduction in yield (Itier, 1996). Under limited water supply conditions, farmers tend to increase irrigation interval. Balancing the supply and demand of water is a critically challenging issue facing farmers in most part of arid and semi-arid region of Nigeria. Samaru in Kaduna state of Nigeria located within this region is similarly facing these challenges. Poor irrigation and water management are generally responsible for inefficient irrigation, leading to water wastage, and wastage of resources and pollution of the surface in the study area (Esfandiari and Maheshwari, 2001).

The current changes in weather bring with them an evident fluctuation in temperatures and also a relatively irregular and random distribution of moisture during the vegetation period of field crops. Therefore a study of plants’ adaptation to a water deficit is ever more topical, as the water deficit leads to a fall in the uptake of nutrients, a restriction on photosynthesis, dry matter formation, the amount and quality of the yield (Hnilička et al., 2007). In response to water deficit, stomata tend to close reducing leaf conductance that ultimately affects leaf photosynthesis (Faver et al., 1996). Under water stress or temperature stress, overall dry matter accumulation in cucumber plants is decreased (Hniličkova et al., 2002); expansion of leaf blades and plant growth is reduced, thereby promoting stunted growth (Gerik et al., 1996).

Cucumber is crops, requires more water than grain crops (Li and Wang, 2000). Mao et al. (2003) found that fresh fruit yields of cucumber were highly affected by the total volume of irrigation regimes were those that had water deficiencies during fruiting stages. Variation in soil moisture in the root zone from beginning to end of growing season will be small under irrigation due to the small volume of wetted soil (Kamal et al., 2009). Cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.) is one of the most popular vegetables cultivated in world. According to Buchtova (2011) grown cucumbers in the total area of 367 ha, of which 99 ha of cucumbers and gherkins 268 ha in 2011. The average yield per hectare of gherkins in 2010 was 21.48 t and cucumber 14.58 t.

The knowledge gap remains as to the effect of growth stage deficit irrigation tolerance limit for cucumber crop under different soil types, climatic condition, different methods of administering deficit irrigation for given locations and the corresponding impact on yield, soil water balance and water productivity of such locations. As the region is increasingly becoming dependent on the production of irrigated lands, irrigated agriculture faces serious challenges that threaten its sustainability. It is necessary to make efficient use of water and bring more area under irrigation with the same available water resources.

1.3       Justification
Efficient irrigation is obtained by filling the crop root zone at each irrigation, applying water uniformly and minimizing runoff (Yonts et. al., 2003). According to Isma’il and Ozawa (2009), in arid and semi arid as well as tropical regions, water shortage is a normal phenomenon and seriously limits the agricultural potential. Therefore, it is important for the available water to be used in the most efficient way. Proper irrigation regime and the use of proper method of irrigation can play a major role in increasing the water use efficiency and the productivity by applying the required
amount of water when it is needed (Bekele and Tilahun, 2007). One of the more feasible solution is the use of management of water for irrigation purposes. Studies are needed to increase the efficient use of the available water in crop production in irrigated agriculture. Since, the combination of regulated deficit irrigation with mulch is one way among others that can improve crop production without adversely affecting the yield of the crop, then it should be encourage in agricultural production. The development of new irrigation scheduling techniques such as deficit irrigation and identifying the sensitive crop growth stage to water stress is one way to enhance crop productivity with less water (Bekele and Tilahun, 2007).

Cucumber (Cucumis sativus) originates in southern Asia, but a large number of cultivars have been developed and are grown worldwide. It is a widely cultivated plant of the family Cucurbitaceae (Wehner and Guner, 2004). Cucumbers are used widely in a wide variety of salads. Due to the continue realization of the importance of fruits in our diets and the overwhelming importance of cucumber’s health benefits along with skin care ; there is increasing demand for the product in Nigeria. International trade in 2002 amounted to 1.5 million tons, with Mexico, the Netherlands and Spain as the main exporters; international trade from African countries is modest and unrecorded. The demand for the product locally is far overwhelming accounting for its high cost in the market and a worthwhile Agribusiness with high degree of turnover over 200%.

The research is to offer a practical tool for selecting the most appropriate mulch and irrigation combination, yield response factor and Kc values for water balance irrigation schedulling which result in efficient irrigation. Also the study will come up with the appropriate way of applying water to the crop without causing adverse effect
on the yield and as well as wastage of water and polluting the environment. FAO (2005) stated that cucumber as a commercial vegetable crop; its cultivation is confined to the drier Savanna region of Nigeria. It is a crop with high economic value and is grown and traded for export. With respect to economic importance, it ranks fourth after tomatoes, cabbage and onion in Asia (Eifediyi and Remison, 2010), and second after tomato in Western Europe, though its place has not been ranked in tropical Africa because of limited use.

1.4       Aim and Objectives
The aim of the study is to evaluate the effects of deficit irrigation and mulch material on yield and water use efficiency of irrigated Cucumber.

The Objectives are to:
i. determine the Water use efficiency of the crop under deficit irrigation and mulch application.

ii. establish crop coefficient (Kc) values for irrigated Cucumber Crop under deficit irrigation and mulch condition for all the growth stages of the crop.

iii. determine the yield response factor of Cucumber under different deficit irrigation and mulch condition.

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