Information on responses of weeds to various soil fertility levels is required to develop fertilizer management strategies as components of integrated weed management programs. A controlled environment study was conducted to determine shoot and root growth response of 23 agricultural weeds to N fertilizer applied at 0, 40, 80, 120, 180, or 240 mg kg−1 soil. Wheat and canola were included as control species. Shoot and root growth of all weeds increased with added N, but the magnitude of the response varied greatly among weed species. Many weeds exhibited similar or greater responses in shoot and root biomass to increasing amounts of soil N, compared with wheat or canola. With increasing amounts of N, 15 weed species showed a greater increase in shoot biomass, and 8 species showed a greater increase in root biomass, compared with wheat. Ten weed species exhibited increases in shoot biomass similar to that exhibited by canola, and five weed species showed greater increases in root biomass than did canola, as N dose was increased. All crop and weed species extracted > 80% of available N at low soil N levels. At the highest N dose, 17 of 23 weed species took up similar or greater amounts of soil N than did wheat, and 6 weed species took up N in amounts similar to that taken up by canola. These findings have significant implications as to how soil fertility affects crop–weed competition. The high responsiveness of many weed species to N may be a weakness to be exploited through development of fertilizer management methods that enhance crop competitiveness with weeds.
Nomenclature: Canola, Brassica napus L. ‘Excel’; spring wheat, Triticum aestivum L. ‘Katepwa’.