Enhancing the competitive ability of oat (Avena sativa L.) cropping systems
Abstract Ecological based weed management strategies are imperative in cropping systems when herbicide use is limited or prohibited. Herbicides are not applicable in controlling wild oat (Avena fatua L.) in oat (Avena sativa L.) cropping systems, as they are closely related. Moreover, herbicide use is prohibited in organic oat cultivation, resulting in a need for developing alternative weed management strategies. Enhancing the crop competitive ability (CA) can be an essential strategy in managing weeds in such instances. Two studies were carried with the objectives to: 1) evaluate newly developed oat genotypes for their CA against wild oat; and 2) develop a competitive organic oat cropping system integrating mechanical and cultural weed control practices. In the first study, seven oat lines deliberately bred for enhanced CA and their two parental cultivars were evaluated for the CA with wild oat. The genotypes yielded similarly in the presence and in the absence of wild oat competition. The tall oat line SA050479 with greater seedling leaf size was more wild oat suppressive among all lines. Moreover, SA050479 had greater yield potential and grain quality; thus, it has the potential to be developed as a commercial wild oat suppressive cultivar. The second study used two contrasting levels of genotype, row spacing, crop density and a post-emergence harrowing and a non-harrowed control in two organic oat fields to develop an integrated weed management system. High crop density and harrowing increased the grain yield by 11% and 13% respectively. The competitive cultivar CDC Baler and high crop density (500 plants m-2) reduced weed biomass by 22% and 52% respectively. Harrowing reduced weed density by more than 50% in three site-years. The cultural and mechanical weed control practices when combined were additive in increasing grain yield and reducing weed biomass. Oat seed yields were increased by 25% when high crop density planting and harrowing were combined. Similarly, the combined effect of competitive cultivar, high crop density, and post-emergence harrowing were greater as weed biomass was reduced by 71%. The outcome of this project implies the importance of enhancing the crop CA by means of crop breeding and integrating cultural and mechanical weed control strategies. Furthermore, this study was able to identify the importance of ecological based weed management strategies in order to overcome the constraints in weed management in present oat cropping systems.
integrated weed management, mechanical weed control, competitive abilty, wild oat, oat genotypes
Master of Science (M.Sc.)