Weed Competition in a Mature Matted Row Strawberry Planting

in HortScience

Various levels of weed competition were implemented in a second-year well-established strawberry (Fragaria ×ananassa `Jewel') planting by cultivating and hand weed removal for defined periods of time over 3 years. The impact of weeds on subsequent productivity was then determined. Sixteen treatments were established where weeds were allowed to grow for defined periods (0, 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 months) throughout the growing season. Treatments were maintained in the plots for 3 consecutive years. Spring weed biomass in 1997 had no impact on yield that same year. Weed biomass in 1997 was negatively associated with yield in 1998, although the trend was nonsignificant. However, several individual contrasts were significant. For example, the weed-free control treatment had the highest average yield, while season-long weed competition reduced yield by 14%. The inverse relationship between weed biomass and fruit yield became significant in 1999. For every 100 g·m-2 increase in weed biomass in 1998, fruit yield was reduced by 6% in 1999. Season-long uncontrolled weed growth reduced productivity by 51%. However, several plots with a limited amount of weed competition had higher yields than the continuously weeded control. These data indicate that yields from a well-established strawberry planting may not be vulnerable to a limited amount of weed competition for at least 2 years. Furthermore, data suggest that hand weeding and cultivation on a monthly basis for multiple years may be damaging as well. Growers should direct a majority of their efforts and resources toward controlling weeds in the planting year. Once the planting is well-established, growers may limit the number of times they hand weed to two or three per season.

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