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- Author or Editor: Harry H. Schomberg x
Sunnhemp (Crotalaria juncea L.) is a tropical legume that could be an important summer cover crop in the southeastern United States, but it has the potential for suppressing both crops and weeds. Allelopathic effects of sunnhemp on weeds, vegetable crops, and cover crops were evaluated in greenhouse and growth chamber experiments. In the greenhouse, ground dried sunnhemp residues (applied mixed with the soil at 1.6% w/w) reduced percent germination of lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) and smooth pigweed (Amaranthus hybridus L.) to a similar degree as that caused by cereal rye (Secale cereale L. subsp. cereale) residues (applied at 1.5% w/w). The allelopathic activity of sunnhemp was greater in the leaves than in the roots or stems. In growth chamber studies, the mean reduction in germination (relative to the control) caused by sunnhemp leaf aqueous extracts was: bell pepper (100%), tomato (100%), onion (95%), turnip (69%), okra (49%), cowpea (39%), collard (34%), cereal rye (22%), sweet corn (14%), Austrian winter pea (10%), crimson clover (8%), cucumber (2%), and winter wheat (2%). In lettuce, carrot, smooth pigweed, and annual ryegrass, sunnhemp aqueous leaf extract reduced seedling length to a degree similar as that produced by rye aqueous leaf extract. Sicklepod [Senna obtusifolia (L.) H.S. Irwin & Barneby CA] germination was not inhibited by any of the sunnhemp or rye aqueous extracts. In conclusion, sunnhemp reduced the germination percentage and seedling growth of various crop species. The allelochemical activity in sunnhemp was primarily in the leaves and remained active at least 16 d after harvest under dry conditions. Sunnhemp's allelochemical effect may be a useful attribute for weed management in sustainable production systems. However, plant growth in the field in crops such as bell pepper, tomato, onion, and turnip may be impacted as a result of allelopathic activity of sunnhemp residues. Thus, weed management may be more effective when sunnhemp is grown in rotation with crops that tolerate the allelochemicals from sunnhemp, resulting in optimization of the rotation effects.