Changes in sowing date can strongly affect plants development (Hay, 1986). Sowing dates can be manipulated to avoid the periods of greatest risk from pests, weeds, and diseases and hence increase yield of the crop (Harper, 1999). Many researchers have argued that the correct sowing time for a variety is the date that gets the crop to anthesis at the optimum time. In maize the high air temperature (greater than 38 °C) compounded by water stress at anthesis decreases the kernel set under dry land environments (Ramadoss et al., 2004). Herbek (1986) reported that delayed sowing of corn in hot and dry conditions reduced yield and had harmful effects on pollination and grain filling. In contrast, Oktem et al. (2004) obtained the highest fresh ear yields for a 25 July sowing date and the lowest fresh ear yields for an 25 Apr. sowing date in a hot and dry region of Turkey. Determining the optimal sowing date for corn is thus very crucial for maximizing crop yields (Abdel Rahman et al., 2002). On the other hand, sweet corn should be consumed, canned, or frozen immediately after harvest as a result of the rapid conversion of soluble sugars to starch. Accordingly, sweet corn is planted over a 3-month period in the north–central United States to extend the availability of fresh produce for marketing and processing (Williams, 2008).
Use of variable sowing dates to control weeds is dependent on time of weed emergence. An awareness of the timing of weed emergence facilitates the planting of crops when weeds are at their lowest density. Differences in the growing environment can also influence the number, structure, germinability, and viability of the seeds produced (Nurse and DiTommaso, 2005). Mulder and Doll (1994) reported that in-row weed density decreased significantly in uncultivated treatments when planting was delayed from 25 Apr. to 5 May in 1991. Delayed planting allows corn to germinate after peak emergence of many weed species (Regnier and Janke, 1990).
Weed suppression is one of the largest benefits of mulching. Mulching can inhibit weeds in two ways: 1) by preventing light from reaching the soil, which reduces germination and seedling growth; and 2) by acting as a physical barrier against the growth of weed seedlings. The beneficial effects of mulches on crop yield have been reported in many studies. Mahajan et al. (2007) found that plastic mulch reduced weed dry matter by 63.8% compared with an unmulched control. Zandstra et al. (2007) reported that the marketable yield of sweet corn increased by 25% to 63% with clear plastic mulch compared with bare soil. Plant height, total dry matter, number of grains per cob, 1000-grain weight, and grain yield of corn were maximized under mulch treatment (Khurshid et al., 2006).
The objective of the present study was to investigate a non-chemical weed control strategy by evaluating opaque plastic and semitransparent biodegradable mulches and different sowing date on sweet corn yield and competitiveness against weeds.
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