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Intermediate wheatgrass (IWG) is a cool-season perennial grass developed as a dual-purpose grain and forage crop. One barrier to adopting this crop is a lack of information on the effects of herbicides on IWG for grain production. An experiment was conducted to evaluate herbicide effects on IWG grain yield, crop injury, and weed control over 2 yr (2019-2021) at sites in Wisconsin, Minnesota, New York, and North Dakota, USA. This evaluation included Group 4 broadleaf herbicides registered in wheat: 2,4-D amine, clopyralid, MCPA, and a mixture of clopyralid + MCPA. Each herbicide or mixture was applied at 1X and 2X the labeled wheat application rate to newly planted and established (1 to 5 yr old) IWG stands in the fall or spring. Applications were made during IWG tillering or jointing stages in the fall or during the jointing stage in the spring. Across site years, application timing, herbicide, and application rate showed no effect on IWG grain yield or plant injury. Broadleaf weed control ranged from 71 to 92% across herbicide treatments relative to the nontreated check at the WI site while weed control at the MN site was variable among treatments. At the NY site, herbicides were equally effective for broadleaf weed suppression, whereas weed pressure was very low at the ND site and treatments did not affect weed cover. The results show that newly planted and established stands of IWG are tolerant to the synthetic auxin herbicides 2,4-D amine, clopyralid, and MCPA when applied during tillering or jointing in the fall or during jointing in the spring. Synthetic auxins represent a potentially useful tool for weed control in IWG cropping systems, especially for problematic broadleaf weed species.
No-till planting organic soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.] into roller-crimped cereal rye (Secale cereale L.) can have several advantages over traditional tillage-based organic production. However, suboptimal cereal rye growth in fields with large populations of weeds may result in reduced weed suppression, weed–crop competition, and soybean yield loss. Ecological weed management theory suggests that integrating multiple management practices that may be weakly effective on their own can collectively provide high levels of weed suppression. In 2021 and 2022, a field experiment was conducted in central New York to evaluate the performance of three weed management tactics implemented alone and in combination in organic no-till soybean planted into both cereal rye mulch and no mulch: (1) increasing crop seeding rate, (2) interrow mowing, and (3) weed electrocution. A nontreated control treatment that did not receive any weed management and a weed-free control treatment were also included. Cereal rye was absent from two of the five fields where the experiment was repeated; however, the presence of cereal rye did not differentially affect results, and thus data were pooled across fields. All treatments that included interrow mowing reduced weed biomass by at least 60% and increased soybean yield by 14% compared with the nontreated control. The use of a high seeding rate or weed electrocution, alone or in combination, did not improve weed suppression or soybean yield relative to the nontreated control. Soybean yield across all treatments was at least 22% lower than in the weed-free control plot. Future research should explore the effects of the tactics tested on weed population and community dynamics over an extended period. Indirect effects from interrow mowing and weed electrocution should also be studied, such as the potential for improved harvestability, decreased weed seed production and viability, and the impacts on soil organisms and agroecosystem biodiversity.
Weeds are a fundamental component of agroecosystems and, if not appropriately managed, can cause severe crop yield losses. New perspectives on weed management are required, because current approaches, such as herbicide application or soil tillage, have significant environmental and agronomic drawbacks. We propose the concept of “neutral weed communities,” which are weed communities that coexist with crops and do not negatively affect crop yield and quality compared with weed-free conditions. Management practices that promote neutral weed communities can enable reduced use of herbicides and soil tillage while enhancing ecosystem services and biodiversity. We report scientific evidence of neutral weed communities and survey ecological explanations for why different weed communities have different effects on crop production. We also propose two weed management approaches for attaining neutral weed communities. The first approach aims to maximize weed biodiversity using traditional approaches such as cropping system diversification and integrated weed management. Higher weed biodiversity is associated with lower dominance of competitive weed species that reduce crop yield. The second approach relies on modern tools such as robots and biotechnology to manipulate the density of specific weed species. This approach can remove highly problematic species and minimize niche overlap between the weeds and crops. Given the complexity of interactions among crops, weeds, and other components of the agroecosystem, we highlight the need for multidisciplinary research to illuminate mechanisms that determine the neutrality of weed communities.
Intensive agricultural crop production is typically associated with low biodiversity. Low biodiversity is associated with a deficit of ecosystem services, which may limit crop yield (e.g., low pollination of insect-pollinated crops) at the individual field level or exacerbate the landscape-level impacts of intensive agriculture. To increase biodiversity and enhance ecosystem services with minimal loss of crop production area, farmers can plant desirable non-crop species near crop fields. Adoption of this practice is limited by inefficiencies in existing establishment methods. We have developed a novel seed-molding method allowing non-crop species to be planted with a conventional corn (Zea mays L.) planter, reducing labor and capital costs associated with native species establishment. Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca L.) was selected as a model native species, because Asclepias plants are the sole food source for monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus L.) larvae. Stratified A. syriaca seeds were added to a mixture of binder (maltodextrin) and filler (diatomaceous earth and wood flour) materials in a 3D-printed mold with the dimensions of a corn seed. The resulting Multi-Seed Zea Pellets (MSZP), shaped like corn seeds, were tested against non-pelleted A. syriaca seeds in several indoor and outdoor pot experiments. Molding into MSZP did not affect percent emergence or time to emergence from a 2-cm planting depth. Intraspecific competition among seedlings that emerged from an MSZP did not differ from competition among seedlings that emerged from a cluster of non-pelleted seeds. These findings demonstrate the potential of MSZP technology as a precise and efficient method for increasing agroecosystem biodiversity.
The invasive vine black swallowwort [Vincetoxicum nigrum (L.) Moench = Cynanchum louiseae Kartesz & Gandhi, Apocynaceae] is difficult to control, and herbicide studies are lacking. This long-lived perennial species is primarily found in high-light environments in natural areas and perennial cropping systems in northeastern North America. We conducted a 3-yr herbicide efficacy study, with or without mowing, in an old-field site infested with V. nigrum in Dutchess County, NY, USA. Experimental plots were either herbicide treated in early July or mowed in early July and subsequently herbicide treated in late August for 2 yr with the potassium salt of glyphosate (2.02 kg ae ha−1), the isopropylamine salt of glyphosate (1.35 kg ae ha−1), or the butoxyethyl ester of triclopyr (1.79 kg ae ha−1). Both glyphosate formulations were effective in reducing V. nigrum aboveground biomass, although they were somewhat less effective in reducing cover or stem densities of V. nigrum plants >10-cm tall after 2 yr compared with untreated plots. Mowing did not always enhance the efficacy of foliar glyphosate applications. Triclopyr, with or without mowing, was generally not effective against V. nigrum in our study. The only significant effect of triclopyr was to increase the cover of grasses in the plots. While annual applications of glyphosate can be useful for management of V. nigrum infestations, higher rates and more frequent applications of triclopyr need to be investigated to determine its usefulness for V. nigrum control.
Hairy galinsoga (Galinsoga quadriradiata Cav.) is a troublesome weed in lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) and other low-growing crops. Many troublesome weed species are more responsive to fertilizer than major crops, and hence potentially more competitive under fertile conditions. This study examined the responses of G. quadriradiata and lettuce, in monoculture or competition with each other, to nitrogen and phosphorus. A greenhouse experiment assessed the biomass and flower production of G. quadriradiata grown in 16 nutrient treatments. The nutrient treatments were arranged in a phosphorus series, in which phosphorus varied, while nitrogen was either low or high, and a nitrogen series, in which nitrogen varied, while phosphorus was either low or high. A field experiment examined G. quadriradiata biomass, flower production, and competition with lettuce using the same nutrient treatments as the greenhouse experiment. Galinsoga quadriradiata dry biomass increased with phosphorus addition, especially when nitrogen was abundant. In the phosphorus series at high nitrogen, G. quadriradiata produced more biomass when competing with lettuce than in monoculture. Nutrient addition generally increased flower production per unit mass. Lettuce fresh biomass increased with phosphorus, but lettuce dry biomass was largely unaffected by fertility. Lettuce fresh and dry biomass were sometimes decreased by competition from G. quadriradiata, relative to intraspecific competition. We conclude that high phosphorus rates increase the productivity of G. quadriradiata and may increase its competitiveness. Therefore, high phosphorus rates should be avoided unless good weed control can be assured.
The aim of this paper is to bring attention to weed ecology research that is taking place in an unexpected discipline: archaeology. While archaeobotanists (archaeologists or botanists who specialize in archaeological plant remains) have been accessing literature in weed ecology for decades and applying the findings to their own studies, their results are almost exclusively published in archaeological journals such as the Journal of Archaeological Science or Vegetation History and Archaeobotany. For this reason, their work is underutilized by weed ecologists, especially those who have an interest in historical weed ecology. Archaeobotanical research could help weed scientists understand the long-term effects of agricultural practices on weed communities and predict the potential impacts of climate change. This paper begins with a brief review of the history of archaeobotany as a discipline, then describes ways in which weed ecology is applied in archaeobotany, including Functional Interpretation of Botanical Surveys (FIBS). Finally, we present opportunities for future collaboration between archaeobotanists and weed scientists.
Drought stress and weed competition are two of the most important threats to corn production in the northeastern United States. Both pressures have the potential to worsen under climate change. In a 2-yr field study in Ithaca, NY, we tested the effects of drought and burcucumber, an increasingly problematic annual vine, on silage corn. Burcucumber seedlings were transplanted into corn rows at densities of 0, 0.5, 2, and 3 plants m−2 and a drought treatment was later imposed with rainout shelters constructed from steel frames and high-clarity plastic. Available soil moisture was lower in drought plots (47% ± 1% in 2018 and 52% ± 2% in 2019) than no-drought plots (69% ± 1% in 2018 and 68% ± 1% in 2019). Burcucumber planting density (P = 0.008) reduced fresh silage yield. Drought also reduced fresh silage yield (P < 0.001) with a drought-by-year interaction (P = 0.007): drought reduced fresh weight by 29% in 2018 (48,000 ± 2,000 kg ha−1 to 34,000 ± 3,000 kg ha−1) and by 9% in 2019 (38,000 ± 3,000 kg ha−1 to 34,000 ± 3,000 kg ha−1). Burcucumber planting density and drought did not interact. Overall, our findings indicate that drought and competition from burcucumber may have additive effects on silage corn in New York State. Regardless of water availability, active weed management is required to prevent yield losses due to burcucumber. Yield losses may be similar or greater in grain corn and might increase under climate change.
Living mulches are cover crops grown simultaneously with and in close proximity to cash crops. Advantages of living mulches over dead cover crops may include increased weed suppression, reduced erosion and leaching, better soil health, and greater resource-use efficiency. Advantages of living mulches over synthetic mulches may include enhanced agroecosystem biodiversity and suitability for a wider range of cropping systems. A major disadvantage of this practice is the potential for competition between living mulches and cash crops. The intensity and outcome of mulch-crop competition depend on agroecosystem management as well as climate and other factors. In this review, we consider the management of living mulches for weed control in field and vegetable cropping systems of temperate environments. More than 50 yr of research have demonstrated that mechanical or chemical suppression of a living mulch can limit mulch-crop competition without killing the mulch and thereby losing its benefits. Such tactics can also contribute to weed suppression. Mechanical and chemical regulation should be combined with cultural practices that give the main crop a competitive advantage over the living mulch, which, in turn, outcompetes the weeds. Promising approaches include crop and mulch cultivar selection; changes to planting time, density, and planting pattern; and changes to fertilization or irrigation regimes. A systems approach to living mulch management, including an increased emphasis on the interactions between management methods, may increase the benefits and lower the risks associated with this practice.
Striking a balance between the weed control capacity of living mulches and their competition with the main crop is complex. At rates that avoid severe injury to living mulch, herbicides may reduce their vigor while simultaneously contributing to weed control. In a 2-yr field study carried out in Freeville, NY, we evaluated the effects of various combinations consisting of two herbicides, applied sequentially at reduced rates, on the growth of a sunn hemp living mulch and weeds (including common lambsquarters, common purslane, hairy galinsoga, and Powell amaranth). When a herbicide with primarily POST activity (Type 1; e.g., rimsulfuron, 0.005 to 0.007 kg ai ha−1) was applied first, performance of sunn hemp (1700 to 3900 kg ha−1 dry biomass; 10% to 88% groundcover) was poor and weed growth (25% to 62% groundcover) was high, likely because sunn hemp was severely injured at a young growth stage and was outcompeted by weeds. A follow-up application (approximately 2 wk later) of a herbicide with primarily PRE and residual activities (Type 2; e.g., metribuzin, 0.05 to 0.15 kg ai ha−1), with a surfactant to enhance its POST activity, had little effect on established weeds. However, because sunn hemp was already 20 cm tall at weed emergence, applying a Type 2 herbicide first did not cause severe injury to sunn hemp and reduced weed pressure, thereby also enhancing sunn hemp performance (3,800 to 6,100 kg ha−1 dry biomass; 85% to 94% groundcover). Moreover, the follow-up application of a Type 1 herbicide affected the smaller weeds more (4% to 21% groundcover) than the better-established sunn hemp. Our results demonstrate that an appropriate sequence of herbicides at reduced rates may be important to control weeds while maintaining a healthy living mulch stand.
Macronutrient inputs to annual cropping systems can benefit weeds as well as crops, sometimes decreasing or eliminating the benefits of fertilization. This interaction between fertility management and integrated weed management is becoming increasingly important as these fields increase their focus on efficiency and prevention, respectively. The risk of increased weed competition reflects the fact that weed biomass and height may be highly responsive to nitrogen, phosphorus, and/or potassium. This generalization is supported by monoculture studies of species such as redroot pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus L.), common lambsquarters (Chenopodium album L.), and barnyardgrass [Echinochloa crus-galli (L.) P. Beauv.] and by ecological theory. However, field studies indicate variation in the effects of macronutrients on weed–crop competition and crop yield, even within species groups. To address challenges in interpreting, comparing, and extrapolating from these diverse reports, we propose a conceptual framework that summarizes the mechanisms underlying observed variation within and between studies. This framework highlights functional traits and trends that help predict yield outcomes in binary weed–crop interactions. Important factors include timing of emergence, maximum heights of the weed and crop, and relative responsiveness to the added nutrient. We also survey recent work on the effects of nutrient source (e.g., the composition of organic amendments) on weed–crop competition. Because different sources vary in their nutrient release dynamics and supplied nutrient ratios, they may have dramatically different effects on weed–crop competition and crop yield. Finally, we offer a guide to best practices for studies of fertility effects on weed–crop competition. Although this review highlights several topics requiring further research, including fertility effects on multispecies interactions and interactions with other environmental factors, emerging methods offer considerable promise. Ultimately, an improved understanding of nutrient effects on weed–crop competition will contribute to the efficient and effective management of diverse cropping systems.
The introduced meadow knapweed (Centaurea × moncktonii C.E. Britton), a hybrid of black (Centaurea nigra L.) and brown (Centaurea jacea L.) knapweeds, is increasingly common in pastures, meadows, and waste areas across many U.S. states, including New York. We evaluated the effects of temperature, light, seed stratification, scarification, and population on percent germination in four experiments over 2 yr. Percent germination ranged from 3% to 100% across treatment combinations. Higher temperatures (30:20, 25:15, and sometimes 20:10 C day:night regimes compared with 15:5 C) promoted germination, especially when combined with the stimulatory effect of light (14:10 h L:D compared with continuous darkness). Under the three lowest temperature treatments, light increased percent germination by 15% to 86%. Cold-wet seed stratification also increased germination rates, especially at lower germination temperatures, but was not a prerequisite for germination. Scarification did not increase percent germination. Differences between C. × moncktonii populations were generally less significant than differences between temperature, light, and stratification treatments. Taken together, these results indicate that C. × moncktonii is capable of germinating under a broad range of environments, which may have facilitated this species’ range expansion in recent decades. However, C. × moncktonii also shows evidence of germination polymorphism: some seeds will germinate under suboptimal conditions, while others may remain dormant until the abiotic environment improves. Subtle differences in dormancy mechanisms and their relative frequencies may affect phenological traits like the timing of seedling emergence and ultimately shape the sizes and ranges of C. × moncktonii populations.
Kernza® intermediate wheatgrass [Thinopyrum intermedium (Host) Barkworth & Dewey], the first perennial grain crop to come to market in North America, can provide a number of ecosystem services when integrated into cropping systems that are dominated by annual grain crops. However, grain yield from Kernza is lower than comparable annual cereal crops such as wheat and oats. Also, although Kernza is a long-lived perennial that can persist for decades, grain yield tends to decline over time as Kernza stands age leading most farmers to replant or rotate to a different crop after 3–5 yrs. Increased intraspecific competition as stand density increases with age has been reported to cause grain yield declines. We investigated the effect of strip-tillage applied at two different timings, between the third and fourth grain harvests, from a Kernza stand in upstate New York. Strip-tillage applied in late fall as plants were entering dormancy increased grain yield by 61% when compared to the control treatment without strip-tillage. However, total crop biomass was not reduced resulting in a greater harvest index for the fall strip-tillage treatment. Strip-tillage applied before stem elongation the following spring reduced overall tiller density and total crop biomass but did not impact tiller fertility or grain yield compared to the control treatment without strip-tillage. Increased grain yield in the fall strip-tillage treatment was due to an increase in the percentage of tillers that produced mature seedheads. This suggests that grain yield decline over time is at least partially caused by competition between tillers in dense stands. Results support further research and development of strip-tillage and other forms of managed disturbance as tools for maintaining Kernza grain yield over time.
North African knapweed (Centaurea diluta Aiton) is an annual weed that is widespread in southern Spain and is of increasing concern in dryland cropping systems. Despite its expanding range in Spain, there is limited information on the emergence timing and pattern of this species, knowledge of which is critical for developing more timely and effective management strategies. Therefore, there is a need to develop simple and reliable models to predict the timing and emergence of this annual weed under dryland conditions. A multi-location field experiment was established across Spain in 2016 to 2017 to assess the emergence of C. diluta. At each of 11 locations, seeds were sown in the fall, and emergence was recorded. Overall emergence averaged 39% in the first year across all sites and 11% in the second year. In both years, the main emergence flush occurred at the beginning of the growing season. A three-parameter Weibull function best described seedling emergence of C. diluta. Emergence models were developed based on thermal time (TT) and hydrothermal time (HTT) and showed high predictability, as evidenced by root mean-square error prediction values of 10.8 and 10.7, respectively. Three cardinal points were established for TT and HHT at 0.5, 10, and 35 C for base, optimal, and ceiling temperatures, respectively, while base water potential was estimated at −0.5 MPa.