Canada thistle poses a particular threat to organic producers in temperate agriculture due to its ability to reproduce through an extensive system of underground roots. The Canada thistle life cycle, growth, and development are seasonally affected, and exploiting this biology may be useful for weed management. The objective of this study was to evaluate smother crop mixtures, seeded at different times, for Canada thistle control. Field trials were established in 2009 and 2010 to evaluate the ability of smother crop mixtures to suppress Canada thistle growth and development. Canada thistle aboveground biomass was suppressed 50% in 2009 and 87% in 2010 by the sorghum–sudangrass mixture, averaged over planting times. The oat mixture suppressed annual weed biomass more than 58% in 2009 and 67% in 2010 in all planting dates. Percent cover of Canada thistle was affected by crop mixture in 2009 and 2010, with sorghum–sudangrass being the most suppressive. The sorghum–sudangrass mixture was more suppressive of Canada thistle, probably because it included soybean and sunflower, all high-biomass, competitive crops. Planting date affected smother crop suppression of Canada thistle growth, but the effect was not consistent between 2009 and 2010 due to differences in weather conditions.
Nomenclature: Canada thistle, Cirsium arvense (L.) Scop.; oat, Avena sativa L.; sorghum-sudangrass, Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench. × Sorghum sudanese (Piper) Stapf.; soybean, Glycine max (L.) Merr.; sunflower, Helianthus annuus L.