Giant ragweed is a competitive, allergenic weed that persists in agricultural fields and early successional sites. Field experiments were conducted to determine the effects of seed size and seed burial depth on giant ragweed emergence and seed demise. In a seedling emergence experiment, small (< 4.8 mm in diameter) and large (> 6.6 mm in diameter) seeds were buried 0, 5, 10, and 20 cm in fall 1997, and weed emergence was monitored over the next seven growing seasons. A generalized linear mixed model fit to the cumulative emergence data showed that maximum emergence for both seed sizes occurred at the 5-cm burial depth, where probability of emergence was 19% for small seeds and 49% for large seeds. Emergence probability at the 10-cm burial depth was 9% for small seeds and 30% for large seeds, and no seedlings emerged from the 20-cm burial depth. The model predicted that ≥ 98% of total cumulative emergence was completed after four growing seasons for large seeds buried 5 cm, five growing seasons for small seeds buried 5 cm and large seeds buried 10 cm, and seven growing seasons for small seeds buried 10 cm. Seed size and burial treatment effects on seed demise were tested in a second experiment using seed packets. Rates of seed demise were inversely proportional to burial depth, and the percentage of viable seeds remaining after 4 yr ranged from 0% on the soil surface to 19% at the 20-cm burial depth. Some seeds recovered from the 20-cm burial depth were viable after 9 yr of burial. These results, coupled with previous research, suggest that seed size polymorphism facilitates giant ragweed adaptation across habitats and that a combination of no-tillage cropping practices, habitat modification, and timely weed control measures can reduce its active seed bank in agricultural fields by 90% or more after 4 yr.
Nomenclature: Giant ragweed, Ambrosia trifida L. AMBTR.