Competitive ability and tolerance of organically grown wheat cultivars to natural weed infestations

Nicola Cosser, Michael Gooding, Andrew Thompson, R. J. Froud-Williams

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Competitive ability of a traditional winter wheat cultivar (Maris Widgeon) was compared with two modem cultivars (Hereward and Genesis) when grown organically in each of four seasons in Gloucestershire, UK. In two seasons, cultivars were compared at two sowing dates (September and October or November). Cv. Maris Widgeon was the tallest cultivar and intercepted most photosynthetically active radiation (PAR), particularly if sown early. Cv. Hereward was taller than cv. Genesis when sown early. Cv. Maris Widgeon accumulated most nitrogen and dry matter early in the season (until the end of March) when sown early, but not when sown late. Relative nitrogen and dry matter accumulation by cultivars later in the season depended on season and sowing date. In one season cv. Maris Widgeon had significantly more early season ground cover. Cultivars did not differ significantly in early tiller production. Although most of these indirect measures of competitive ability were greater for the older variety cv. Maris Widgeon, infestation of Veronica spp. was greater in plots of this cultivar than in plots of either one or both of the shorter cultivars in two successive seasons. In the 1993/94 season, the soil seedbank from plots previously cropped with cv. Maris Widgeon produced more seedlings of Sinapis arvensis. In the 1994/95 season, cv. Maris Widgeon plots contained less weed in terms of ground cover, numbers, dry matter and nitrogen than the other cultivars, and soil sampled from plots previously cropped with cv. Hereward sown late gave rise to larger numbers of weeds than cv. Maris Widgeon. Sowing date affected weed burdens and emergence to a much greater extent than wheat cultivar. In years and sowing date treatments with relatively low weed presence the shorter cultivars tended to yield more than cv. Maris Widgeon. When weed burdens were severe cv. Maris Widgeon yields were equal to or greater than those of either cvs Hereward or Genesis. The results suggest that the traditional tall cv. Maris Widgeon could be used beneficially to tolerate weeds in organic systems when high weed infestations were anticipated, but could not be relied upon to suppress weed development, and in some circumstances could actually encourage certain species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)523–535
Number of pages13
JournalAnnals of Applied Biology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1997


  • Competitive ability
  • Cultivars
  • Organic
  • Sowing date
  • Weeds
  • Wheat


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