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Root Distribution and Potential Interactions Between Allelopathic Rice, Sprangletop (Leptochloa spp.), and Barnyardgrass (Echinochloa crus-galli) based on 13C Isotope Discrimination Analysis

David Gealy, Karen Moldenhauer, Sara Duke
Journal of chemical ecology 2013 v.39 pp. 186-203
Echinochloa crus-galli, Leptochloa fusca subsp. fascicularis, agronomic traits, cultivars, grain yield, isotopes, plant architecture, primary productivity, production technology, rice, rooting, roots, sampling, soil depth, tillering, tillers, weed control, weeds, Arkansas
Weed-suppressive rice cultivars hold promise for improved and more economical weed management in rice. Interactions between roots of rice and weeds are thought to be modulated by the weed-suppressive activity of some rice cultivars, but these phenomena are difficult to measure and not well understood. Thus, above-ground productivity, weed suppression, and root distribution of 11 rice cultivars and two weed species were evaluated in a drill-seeded, floodirrigated system at Stuttgart, Arkansas, USA in a two-year study. The allelopathic cultivars, PI 312777 and Taichung Native 1 (TN-1), three other weed-suppressive cultivars, three indica-derived breeding selections, and three nonsuppressive commercial cultivars were evaluated in field plots infested with barnyardgrass (Echinochloa crus-galli (L.) Beauv.) or bearded sprangletop (sprangletop, Leptochloa fusca (L.) Kunth var. fascicularis (Lam.) N. Snow). The allelopathic cultivars produced more tillers and suppressed both weed species to a greater extent than did the breeding selections or the non-suppressive cultivars. 13C isotope discrimination analysis of mixed root samples to a depth of 15 cm revealed that the allelopathic cultivars typically produced a greater fraction of their total root mass in the surface 0–5 cm of soil depth compared to the breeding selections or the non-suppressive cultivars, which tended to distribute their roots more evenly throughout the soil profile. These trends in root mass distribution were apparent at both early (pre-flood) and late-season stages in weed-free and weed-infested plots. Cultivar productivity and root distribution generally responded similarly to competition with the two weed species, but barnyardgrass reduced rice yield and root mass more than did sprangletop. These findings demonstrate for the first time that roots of the allelopathic cultivars PI 312777 and TN-1 explore the upper soil profile more thoroughly than do non-suppressive cultivars under weed-infested and weed-free conditions in flood-irrigated U.S. rice production systems. They raise the interesting prospect that root proliferation near the soil surface might enhance the weed-suppressive activity of allelochemical exudates released from roots. Plant architectural design for weed suppressive activity should take these traits into consideration along with other proven agronomic traits such as high tillering and yield.