Subterranean and aerial seed production of southern threecornerjack (Emex australis)

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Weed Science


doublegee, integrated weed management, Rumex hypogaeus, seed dormancy, weed control


Southern threecornerjack (Emex australis Steinh.) produces both aerial seeds on the branches and subterranean seeds at the base of the plant crown approximately 1 to 2 cm underground. Prior research indicated that seeds buried at a depth of 1 cm have a much higher probability of germinating in the following season compared with seeds on the soil surface. The current research investigated the number of subterranean seeds produced per plant, timing of subterranean seed production, and germination requirements of subterranean seeds compared with aerial seeds. This research demonstrated that E. australis plants from multiple populations produced subterranean seeds beginning at the 4-leaf development stage, before the production of aerial seeds. Individual plants produced a maximum of 30 subterranean seeds. Germination of subterranean and aerial seeds following afterripening over the summer to autumn (December to May) fallow was similar, demonstrating that the different seed types had no differences in dormancy. Further, the subterranean seeds did not have the light requirement for germination observed in aerial seeds. Subterranean seeds had 22.2% and 24.3% germination in light and dark conditions, respectively, compared with aerial seeds, which had 26.9% germination in light conditions and 12.3% germination in the dark. Production of subterranean seeds was low, given that a mature E. australis plant may produce more than 1,100 aerial seeds, but the subterranean seeds formed earlier in plant development. Recommendations for postemergence herbicides are to spray E. australis at the 2- to 4-leaf stage of growth, yet some plants may have already produced mature subterranean seeds by this stage. Further research is required to determine the impact of subterranean seeds on population ecology.


Open access.