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Ecological significance of rice (Oryza sativa) planting density and nitrogen rates in managing the growth and competitive ability of itchgrass (Rottboellia cochinchinensis) in direct-seeded rice systems

Tahir Hussain Awan, Pompe C. Sta Cruz, Bhagirath Singh Chauhan
Journal of pest science 2015 v.88 no.2 pp. 427-438
Oryza sativa, Rottboellia cochinchinensis, application timing, biomass production, control methods, direct seeding, farmers, fertilizer rates, leaf area, leaves, nitrogen, nitrogen fertilizers, noxious weeds, planting, rice, weed control
Current understanding is that high planting density has the potential to suppress weeds and crop–weed interactions can be exploited by adjusting fertilizer rates. We hypothesized that (a) high planting density can be used to suppress Rottboellia cochinchinensis growth and (b) rice competitiveness against this weed can be enhanced by increasing nitrogen (N) rates. We tested these hypotheses by growing R. cochinchinensis alone and in competition with four rice planting densities (0, 100, 200, and 400 plants m⁻²) at four N rates (0, 50, 100, and 150 kg ha⁻¹). At 56 days after sowing (DAS), R. cochinchinensis plant height decreased by 27–50 %, tiller number by 55–76 %, leaf number by 68–84 %, leaf area by 70–83 %, leaf biomass by 26–90 %, and inflorescence biomass by 60–84 %, with rice densities ranging from 100 to 400 plants m⁻². All these parameters increased with an increase in N rate. Without the addition of N, R. cochinchinensis plants were 174 % taller than rice; whereas, with added N, they were 233 % taller. Added N favored more weed biomass production relative to rice. R. cochinchinensis grew taller than rice (at all N rates) to avoid shade, which suggests that it is a “shade-avoiding” plant. R. cochinchinensis showed this ability to reduce the effect of rice interference through increased leaf weight ratio, specific stem length, and decreased root-shoot weight ratio. This weed is more responsive to N fertilizer than rice. Therefore, farmers should give special consideration to the application timing of N fertilizer when more N-responsive weeds are present in their field. Results suggest that the growth and seed production of R. cochinchinensis can be decreased considerably by increasing rice density to 400 plants m⁻². There is a need to integrate different weed control measures to achieve complete control of this noxious weed.