Agronomy and Horticulture Department



Charles A. Shapiro

Date of this Version



Published in Weed Technology 2010 24:50–58. Copyright © Weed Science Society. Used by permission.


Weeds cause crop loss indirectly by reducing the quantity of resources available for growth. Quantifying the effects of weed interference on nitrogen (N) supply, crop growth, and N nutrition may assist in making both N and weed management decisions. Experiments were conducted to quantify the effect of N addition and weed interference on soil nitrate-N (NO3- N) over time and the dependence of corn growth on NO3-N availability, determine the corn N nutrition index (NNI) at anthesis, and evaluate if relative chlorophyll content can be utilized as a reliable predictor of NNI. Urea was applied at 0, 60, and 120 kg N/ha to establish N treatments. Season-long weedy, weed-free, and five weed interference treatments were established by delaying weed control from time of crop planting to the V3, V6, V9, V15, or R1 stages of corn development. Soil NO3-N ranged from 20 kg N/ha without N addition to 98 kg N/ha with 120 kg N/ha added early in the season, but crop and weed growth reduced soil NO3-N to 10 kg N/ha by corn anthesis. Weed presence reduced soil NO3-N by up to 50%. Average available NO3-N explained 29 to 40% of the variation in corn shoot mass at maturity. Weed interference reduced corn biomass and NNI by 24 to 69%. Lack of N also reduced corn NNI by 13 to 46%, but reduced corn biomass by only 11 to 23%. Nondestructive measures of relative chlorophyll content predicted corn NNI with 65 to 85% accuracy. Although weed competition for factors other than N may be the major contributor to corn biomass reduction, the chlorophyll meter was a useful diagnostic tool for assessing the overall negative effects of weeds on corn productivity. Further research could develop management practices to guide supplemental N applications in response to weed competition.