Manipulating crop row orientation to suppress weeds and increase crop yield

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Weed Science


Crop rows oriented at a right angle to sunlight direction (i.e., east–west within the winter cropping system in Western Australia) may suppress weed growth through greater shading of weeds in the interrow spaces. This was investigated in the districts of Merredin and Beverley, Western Australian (latitudes of 31° and 32°S) from 2002 to 2005 (four trials). Winter grain crops (wheat, barley, canola, lupines, and field peas) were sown in an east–west or north–south orientation. Within wheat and barley crops oriented east–west, weed biomass (averaged throughout all trials) was reduced by 51 and 37%, and grain yield increased by 24 and 26% (compared with crops oriented north–south). This reduction in weed biomass and increase in crop yield likely resulted from the increased light (photosynthetically active radiation) interception by crops oriented east–west (i.e., light interception by the crop canopy as opposed to the weed canopy was 28 and 18% greater in wheat and barley crops oriented east–west, compared with north–south crops). There was no consistent effect of crop row orientation in the canola, field pea, and lupine crops. It appears that manipulation of crop row orientation in wheat and barley is a useful weed-control technique that has few negative effects on the farming system (i.e., does not cost anything to implement and is more environmentally friendly than chemical weed control).