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Utilization of Allelopathy for Weed Management in Agroecosystems

Weston, Leslie A.
Agronomy journal 1996 v.88 no.6 pp. 860-866
weeds, weed control, biological control, allelopathy, crop residues, cover crops, live mulches, crop rotation, crop-weed competition
Biorational alternatives are gaining increased attention for weed conlrol because of concerns related to pesticide usage and dwindling numbers of labeled products, particularly for minor-use crops. AIlelopathy offers potential for biorational weed control through the production and release of allelochemlcs from leaves, flowers, seeds, stems, and roots of living or decomposing plant materials. Under appropriateconditions, alldochemics may be released in quantities suppressive to developing weed seedlings. Allelochemics often exhibit selectivity, similar to synthetic herbicides. Two main approaches have been investigated for allelopathic weed suppression. One is use of living rotational crops or mulches that interfere with the growth of surrounding weeds [e.g., tall red fescue, Festuca arundinacea Schreb.; creeping red fescue, F. rubra L. subsp, commutata; asparagus, Asparagus officinalis L. var. altilis); sorghum, Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench; alfalfa, Medicago sativa L.; black mustard, Brassica nigra (L.) Koch; and oat, Avena sativa L.]. Attempts to select germplamn with enhanced suppressive ability have been limited. The second is use of cover crop residues or living mulches to suppress weed growlh for variable lengths of time (e.g., winter rye, Secale cereale L.; winter wheat, Triticum aestivum L.; and sorghum). Cover crop residues may selectively provide weed suppression through their physical presence on the soil surface and by release of allelochemics or microbially altered allelochemics. The ability to understand the physiological basis for ailelopathy in a crop plant may allow the weed scientist or ecologist to work closely with molecular biologists or traditional plant breeders to selectively enhance the traits responsible for weed suppression. Journal Article no. 94-10-217 of the Kentucky Agric. Exp. Stn. Published with approval of the director. Presented at a symposium, Allelopathy in Cropping Systems (jointly sponsored by Div. C-3, C-2, S-6, and S-8), at the ASA-CSSA-SSSA annual meetings in Seattle, WA, 14 Nov. 1994.