Crop rotation has long been considered one of the simplest and most effective tools for managing weeds. In this paper, we demonstrate how crop rotations can be strategically arranged to harness a novel mechanism of weed suppression: weed-weed competition. Specifically, we consider how crop stacking, or increasing the number of consecutive plantings of a single crop within a rotation, can decrease the size of the weed seed bank, by forcing weeds to compete with each other in similar environments for longer periods of time, while still reaping the traditional benefits of crop rotation. Using an annual plant model, we investigate the theoretical effects of stacked crop rotations on weeds that have different life-history strategies and phenology. Our results show that when weeds compete within a season, stacking can reduce the weed seed bank compared to rotations without stacked crops. Although more research is needed to fully understand the effects of crop stacking on other aspects of the system, such as insect pests and diseases, our research suggests that crop stacking has the potential to improve weed suppression without additional inputs, and their associated costs and externalities. More generally, improving management by changing the temporal arrangement of disturbances is a novel, process-based approach that could likely be applied to other weed management practices, such as mowing and herbicide application, and which could involve mechanisms other than weed-weed competition. Leveraging this new application of existing ecological theory to improve weed management strategies holds great promise.
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Vol. 62 • No. 1