The trade-off between crop production and weed control is a fundamental scientific issue, as it is frequently influenced by individual crop competitive ability, population density, and planting pattern. A 2 yr field study was conducted to examine the relationship between planting density and row spacing, using two contrasting oat varieties. On average, high planting density (480 plants m-2) reduced weed biomass at oat maturity by 59% in 2012 and by 56% in 2013, when compared with a low density (120 plants m-2). The droopy-leaf variety suppressed weed biomass by up to 69% and weed density up to 72%, compared with the erect-leaf variety. In a drier year, the greatest grain yield was achieved with the droopy-leaf variety under the intermediate density, while in 2013, the erect-leaf variety under the high density had similar yield to the droopy-leaf variety at the intermediate density. A general trend was that increasing plant density suppressed weed infestation, and promoted crop biomass and yield. The droopy-leaf variety exhibited a strong competitive ability under the intermediate planting density, while the erect-leaf variety had a strong competitive ability under the high density. Taken together, there was a complex variety-by-environment interaction to achieve the balance between crop production and weed suppression, which was mediated by growing-season conditions.
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