The objectives of this research were to characterize the extent of intraspecifc variation in seed characteristics of Powell amaranth and to evaluate whether such variation was correlated with crop rotation history of the collection sites. We compared characteristics of seeds originating from dairy farms with a corn–alfalfa crop rotation history with seeds originating from farms with a history of intensive vegetable production. We hypothesized that (1) multiple years of perennial alfalfa would select for greater seed dormancy and longevity in seeds of the summer annual Powell amaranth, (2) earlier spring planting dates of corn and alfalfa compared with most vegetable crops would select for earlier emergence, and (3) greater competition and lower soil moisture in the nonirrigated corn–alfalfa rotation would select for greater seed size. Seeds from 10 to 20 plants from each of 10 farms from each habitat were collected in the fall of 2002 and 2003 in central New York. To control for maternal effects on seed dormancy, a second generation of seeds was produced from plants grown under common greenhouse conditions. Germination in petri dishes was greater for second-generation seeds from vegetable farms (46%) than for those from dairy farms (32%). Total emergence following overwinter burial in the field was greater for seeds originating from dairy farms (62%) compared with those from vegetable farms (52%). Neither seed weight nor the rate of emergence varied by habitat of origin. Our results suggest that perennial alfalfa in dairy rotations may have selected for greater dormancy and longevity of Powell amaranth seeds. The large intraspecific variation in seed characteristics observed, underscores the importance of considering multiple populations when making comparisons of germination characteristics across biotyes (e.g., resistant vs. susceptible) or species, or when developing and interpreting models of weed emergence or weed population dynamics.
Nomenclature: Powell amaranth = green pigweed, Amaranthus powellii S. Wats. AMAPO, alfalfa, Medicago sativa L, corn, Zea mays L