Differences in weed population dynamics with respect to within-field heterogeneity are not well documented despite increasing interest in site-specific management of agro-ecosystems. The focus of this study was to determine if mechanical weed management (cultivation) and/or soil factors help to explain observed within-field distributions of feral common sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.). The ridges and furrows created by the ridge-tillage system adds additional microsites to existing spatial heterogeneity for soil characteristics such as soil organic carbon (SOC) concentration. Experimental areas were selected on the basis of naturally high or low SOC concentration. Cultivation resulted in 100% mortality of H. annuus seedlings growing in the middle of furrows. Cultivation of pre-emergence herbicide treated and no-herbicide ridges resulted in small but statistically significant (α = 0.05) reductions in seedling survival. No differences were detected in H. annuus canopy height, stem diameter, stem length, or vegetative biomass between high and low SOC environments. Neither total reproductive biomass (P = 0.49) nor the biomass of flowers near physiological maturity (an estimate of fecundity; P = 0.59) were affected by SOC environment. Late season H. annuus lodging was observed to reduce reproductive biomass. Juvenile plants that survived mechanical weed control efforts grew and produced reproductive biomass similarly across SOC environments. The lack of difference in vegetative and reproductive characteristics between high and low SOC environments suggests that SOC (or the edaphic conditions associated with greater or lesser SOC level) was not critical in contributing to the observed distribution of H. annuus from juvenile to flowering stages of growth within well-fertilized, irrigated agricultural habitats.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Agronomy and Crop Science
- Soil Science
- Earth-Surface Processes