Light Quality Effect on Corn Growth as Influenced by Weed Species and Nitrogen Rate

Thomas R. Butts, Joshua J. Miller, J. Derek Pruitt, Bruno C. Vieira, Maxwel C. Oliveira, Salvador Ramirez II, John L. Lindquist


Corn-weed competition has often been characterized as the competition for limited resources such as light quantity, water, and nutrients. However, growing evidence suggests that light quality, specifically the red:far red ratio (R:FR), is a crucial component to corn-weed interactions. Additionally, a reduction in the R:FR has shown to down-regulate plant genes similarly to a nitrogen (N) deficient environment. A greenhouse study was conducted to evaluate the effect of N stress and R:FR from common waterhemp, velvetleaf, and volunteer corn on corn growth and development. The R:FR for all three weed species tended to be similar but lower than a weed-free treatment. However, observations from the spectral response curves demonstrated significant changes in the patterns of light reflected from each weed species. In the N-sufficient environment, early-season (V5 corn growth stage) R:FR from all three weed species reduced corn height, leaf chlorophyll content, and shoot biomass while increasing fibrous root biomass. However, in the N-deficient environment, no effects were observed on corn growth from changes in light quality, indicating N stress was a greater limiting factor. These results highlight the importance of the critical weed-free period and the need for proper early-season weed management.

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