Submitted to: Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/16/2015
Publication Date: 6/23/2015
Citation: Boydston, R.A., Williams, M. 2015. Sweet corn hybrid tolerance to weed competition under three weed management levels. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems. 31:281-287. doi: 10.1017/S1742170515000204.
Interpretive Summary: Sweet corn is a major processed vegetable crop in the United States and is nearly always subject to some yield loss due to weed competition. Besides yield loss, weed interference can affect ear traits associated with quality. Weeds in sweet corn are typically managed with a combination of herbicides and cultivation. There is a growing market for organically certified vegetables, which does not allow the use of synthetic herbicides. Employing cultural practices and alternative methods to manage weeds, such as utilizing sweet corn hybrids that tolerate and/or suppress weeds could benefit all growers. This research was conducted to evaluate the tolerance of four sweet corn hybrids differing in height and canopy density to weeds and weed response to the same hybrids when grown under three weed management levels; a) intensive with herbicides and hand weeding, b) intensive cultivation, and c) lower intensity cultivation. Weed management level had the greatest impact on weed counts and final weed biomass. Two taller sweet corn hybrids with greater leaf canopy suppressed final weed biomass more consistently than two shorter hybrids with smaller canopies. In the presence of weeds, taller sweet corn hybrids with larger leaf canopy maintained yield better than shorter, less competitive sweet corn hybrids. Utilizing hybrids with greater tolerance to weeds and greater ability to suppress weeds could be a valuable component of an integrated weed management system.
Technical Abstract: Nearly all commercial sweet corn fields contain weeds that escaped management and often suffer yield loss due to weed competition. Field trials were conducted from 2009 to 2011 near Prosser, WA and Urbana, IL to evaluate weed response and tolerance of four sweet corn hybrids to three levels of weed management; weed free (WF), high intensity cultivation (HC), and low intensity cultivation (LC). Weed management level had the greatest impact on early season weed counts and HC reduced final weed biomass more than LC in 2 of 4 site years. Two taller sweet corn hybrids with greater leaf area suppressed final weed biomass more than two shorter hybrids with lower leaf area in three of four site-years. When grown with less intense weed management that resulted in more weeds, taller sweet corn hybrids with greater leaf area maintained a greater portion of weed-free yield than shorter, less competitive sweet corn hybrids. Utilizing hybrids with greater tolerance to weeds and greater ability to suppress weeds could be a valuable component of an integrated weed management system.