Evaluation of commercial wheat cultivars for canopy architecture, early vigour, weed suppression, and yield

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Herbicide resistance in weeds restricts control options, thereby escalating economic loss and threatening agricultural sustainability in cereal production. Field evaluation of the crop performance, competitive traits, and consequent weed suppressive potential of 13 commercial winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) cultivars was performed in central NSW Australia with a focus on the evaluation and modelling of above-ground interactions. In 2015 and 2016, replicated field trials were established with genetically diverse commercial wheat genotypes under moderate to low rainfall conditions in Wagga Wagga (572 mm) and Condobolin (437 mm) New South Wales, respectively. The heritage cultivar Federation and a commercial cultivar of winter cereal rye (Secale cereale L.) were included as known weed-suppressive controls. Crop and weed growth, as well as early vigour, leaf area index, and photosynthetically active radiation, were monitored at various crop phenological stages including early growth, vegetative, flowering, grain fill, and harvest. Significant differences between wheat cultivar and location were observed for crop biomass, early vigour, leaf area index, weed number, weed biomass, canopy architecture, and yield in both 2015 and 2016. Differences in weed establishmentwere largely impacted first by rainfall and season and secondly by crop architecture (i.e., height, size, canopy) and phenology (i.e., growth stages). Early vigour and early canopy closure were instrumental in suppressing weed establishment and growth. Cultivar performance and competition with weeds were also clearly influenced by both environmental factors and genotype, as evidenced by differences in early cultivar performance, yield, and weed suppression by season and location. Specifically, Federation, Condo, and Janz wheat cultivars were superior performers in terms of weed suppression in both locations and years; however, Federation produced up to 55% lower yield than recently introduced cultivars. Partial least squares (PLS) regression was performed to develop a predictive linear model for weed competition in commercial wheat cultivars based on weed dry biomass as the response variable and selected aboveground crop canopy traits as predictors. In 2015, the model differed in accordance with crop growth stage, but the impact of predictors on weed biomass at both locations was not significant. In 2016, under local above average rainfall conditions, the model showed a significant negative correlation (p < 0.001) of most predictors on weed biomass (r2 = 0.51 at Condobolin, r2 = 0.62 at WaggaWagga), suggesting the most influential factors in reducing weed numbers and establishment as crop vigour, biomass, and height. Our results indicate the establishment of competitive wheat cultivars in the absence of post-emergent herbicides resulted in a two to five-fold increased weed suppression over less suppressive genotypes, without significant yield penalties. Therefore, cultivar choice constitutes a cost-efective and sustainable weed management tool, particularly when weed pressure is significant.
Original languageEnglish
Article number983
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
Issue number7
Early online date09 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jul 2020


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