An improved understanding of the effects of nitrogen (N) on crop–weed interactions is needed for the development of integrated weed management systems where responsible use of N fertilizers is considered. Field experiments conducted in 1999 and 2000 at two locations in eastern Nebraska quantify the effects of N and increasing duration of weed interference on corn growth and development. A naturally occurring population of weeds was allowed to compete with the corn crop for increasing lengths of time and at three rates of N application (0, 60, and 120 kg N ha−1). Weed interference and withholding applied N increased the time to 50% silking by an average of 3.9 and 2.9 d, respectively. Regardless of treatments, relative growth rates of corn leaf area and biomass were maximized between the V1 and V2 growth stages of corn and increased linearly with N rate but were affected to a lesser extent by weed presence. The improvement in early season corn growth with addition of N resulted in greater leaf area, biomass, and height, which improved the competitive ability of corn against weeds. Reductions in maximum corn leaf area and height due to weed interference usually began earlier and were more extensive at reduced rates of N. Partitioning of biomass to reproductive structures increased with N during reproductive stages, likely contributing to greater harvest indices at the end of the season. Results from this study indicate that the effects of N fertilization on early-season crop growth provided a competitive advantage for corn relative to weeds, thereby increasing the length of time that weeds could compete with a crop before removal was required, but further research is needed to identify mechanisms regarding improved crop tolerance to weeds.
Nomenclature: Corn, Zea mays L. ‘DK589RR’.