The critical period for weed control (CPWC) identifies the phase of the crop growth cycle when weed interference results in unacceptable yield losses; however, the effect of planting date on CPWC is not well understood. Field studies were conducted in 2004 and 2005 at Urbana, IL, to determine CPWC in sweet corn for early May (EARLY) and late-June (LATE) planting dates. A quantitative series of treatments of both increasing duration of interference and length of weed-free period were imposed within each planting-date main plot. The beginning and end of the CPWC, based on 5% loss of marketable ear mass, was determined by fitting logistic and Gompertz equations to the relative yield data representing increasing duration of weed interference and weed-free periods, respectively. Weed interference stressed the crop more quickly and to a greater extent in EARLY, relative to LATE. At a 5% yield-loss level, duration of weed interference for 160 and 662 growing-degree days (GDD) from crop emergence marked the beginning of the CPWC for EARLY and LATE, respectively. When maintained weed-free for 320 and 134 GDD, weeds emerging later caused yield losses of less than 5% for EARLY and LATE, respectively. Weed densities exceeded 85 plants m−2 for the duration of the experiments and predominant species included barnyardgrass, common lambsquarters, common purslane, redroot pigweed, and velvetleaf. Weed canopy height and total aboveground weed biomass were 300% and 500% higher, respectively, for EARLY compared with LATE. Interactions between planting date and CPWC indicate the need to consider planting date in the optimization of integrated weed management systems for sweet corn. In this study, weed management in mid-June–planted sweet corn could have been less intensive than early May–planted corn, reducing herbicide use and risk of herbicide carryover to sensitive rotation crops.
Nomenclature: Barnyardgrass, Echinochloa crus-galli (L.) Beauv. ECHCG; common lambsquarters, Chenopodium album L. CHEAL; common purslane, Portulaca oleracea L. POROL; redroot pigweed, Amaranthus retroflexus L. AMARE; velvetleaf, Abutilon theophrasti Medicus ABUTH; sweet corn, Zea mays L. ‘GH0937’.