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Ecophysiological simulation models provide a quantitative method to predict the effects of management practices, plant characteristics, and environmental factors on crop and weed growth and competition. The INTERCOM interplant competition model was parameterized, calibrated by monoculture data for three cowpea (Vigna unguiculata) genotypes that differed in growth habit, common sunflower (Helianthus annuus) and common purslane (Portulaca oleracea), and used to simulate competition of cowpea cover crops with sunflower or purslane. The simulation results were compared with observations from field competition experiments in 2003 and 2004. INTERCOM more accurately simulated actual field data for the competition of cowpea genotypes and sunflower than companion field experiments for the competition of cowpea and purslane. The validated simulation model of cowpea and sunflower at two densities was used to study the effects of cowpea growth habit on final biomass production of cowpea and sunflower. The model suggested that erect growth habit was more competitive than semi-erect and prostrate growth habit, when cowpea genotypes were grown with sunflower. Cowpea leaf area distribution was important to higher cowpea biomass production, while cowpea height growth was important to reduce sunflower biomass. Our simulation approach is suggested as a method for crop breeders to gauge the likely success of selection for competitive crops before undertaking expensive long-term breeding experiments.