Amaranthus species, commonly referred to as “pigweeds,” are among the most troublesome weeds in many crop production systems. Effective control of these species often begins with an understanding of their biological and reproductive characteristics. At two sites in Missouri, six pigweed species (redroot pigweed, common waterhemp, spiny amaranth, tumble pigweed, smooth pigweed, and Palmer amaranth) were established in 60-m rows spaced 1.5 m apart. At biweekly intervals, plant heights and dry weights were recorded for each species; seed numbers were estimated at the end of the growing season. Dry weight of Palmer amaranth was up to 65% greater than those of all other species 2 wk after planting (WAP). Palmer amaranth biomass accumulation remained greater than those of the other species throughout the season and at the end of the season was 1.2- and 2.7-fold greater than those of redroot and tumble pigweed, respectively. Palmer amaranth was approximately 10 cm tall 2 WAP (37% taller than the next tallest species, redroot pigweed) and approximately 24 cm tall 4 WAP (45% taller than redroot pigweed). In contrast, common waterhemp had not emerged 2 WAP, and plant dry weight 4 WAP was approximately 11 and 26% those of Palmer amaranth and redroot pigweed, respectively. Final plant height ranged from 58 (tumble pigweed) to 208 cm (Palmer amaranth). Redroot pigweed, smooth pigweed, common waterhemp, and Palmer amaranth plants each produced over 250,000 seeds plant−1. Spiny amaranth and tumble pigweed produced approximately 114,000 and 50,000 seeds plant−1, respectively. Common waterhemp produced 535 seeds g−1 of total plant dry weight; this seed production was 1.4-, 1.4-, 2.0-, 3.4-, and 3.4-fold greater than those of redroot pigweed, smooth pigweed, Palmer amaranth, tumble pigweed, and spiny amaranth, respectively. Because the timing for many postemergence herbicides depends on weed height, rapid growth shortly after emergence reduces the time frame for optimum control of species such as Palmer amaranth. Delayed emergence also could result in escaped common waterhemp. Escape of only a few plants could result in a rapid increase in seed populations in the soil seed bank and may select for late-emerging biotypes.
Nomenclature: Common waterhemp, Amaranthus rudis Sauer AMATA; Palmer amaranth, Amaranthus palmeri S. Wats. AMAPA; redroot pigweed, Amaranthus retroflexus L. AMARE; smooth pigweed, Amaranthus hybridus L. AMACH; spiny amaranth, Amaranthus spinosus L. AMASP; tumble pigweed, Amaranthus albus L. AMAAL.