Previous research has shown that both the density and spatial pattern of wheat have an influence on crop growth and weed suppression, but it is not clear what degree of uniformity is necessary to achieve major improvements in weed suppression. Field experiments were performed over 3 yr to investigate the effects of crop density and different spatial distributions on weed suppression. The spatial pattern of spring wheat sown in five patterns and three densities in small weed-infested plots were analyzed with the use of digitized photographs of field plots to describe the locations of individual wheat plants as x and y coordinates. We used a simple quantitative measure, Morisita's index, to measure the degree of spatial uniformity. Increased crop density resulted in reduced weed biomass and increased crop biomass every year, but crop pattern had significant effects on weed and crop biomass in the first year only. Weather conditions during the second and third years were very dry, resulting in very low weed biomass production. We hypothesize that water deficiency increased the importance of belowground relative to aboveground competition by reducing biomass production, making competition more size symmetric, and reducing the effect of crop spatial pattern on weed growth. The results indicate that increased crop density in cereals can play an important role in increasing the crop's competitive advantage over weeds, and that spatial uniformity maximizes the effect of density when low resource levels or abiotic stress do not limit total biomass production.
Nomenclature: Spring wheat, Triticum aestivum L.