Early weed removal in canola gives the crop a competitive advantage over weeds and is therefore widely recommended for optimal crop production, but no studies have been undertaken previously to determine the effect of this practice on insect infestations. Four field experiments were conducted at Lacombe and Beaverlodge, AB, Canada, in 1999–2001 for a total of 10 site-years to determine the effect of time of weed removal on root maggot (Delia spp.) egg deposition and larval damage to taproots. The experiments also investigated the effects of other factors such as cultivar, seeding date, herbicide application rate, fertilizer rate and placement, and use of a nitrification inhibitor on root maggot damage and oviposition. Damage to taproots and oviposition declined by approximately 6 and 23%, respectively, with a delay in weed removal from the two- to six-leaf stage of canola development. The effect of time of weed removal on root maggot damage and egg density sometimes varied with site and cultivar, but the main effect of time of weed removal was more prominent (smaller P values) than interactions with site. The most plausible explanation for this effect relates to the behavioral sequence of events that precedes oviposition in mated, gravid female flies. Heterogeneous environments, such as weedy backgrounds in canola plantings, minimize opportunities for females of Delia spp. to complete the behavioral sequence required for oviposition, leading to reduced infestation levels in weedy systems. However, yield improvements achieved with early weed removal exceeded the yield benefit derived by lowered root maggot pressure when weeds were removed later. Nevertheless, current efforts to reduce pesticide use in agriculture may promote broader adoption of cultural control strategies for weed and root maggot management. In some situations, it may then be appropriate to ameliorate root maggot damage by maintaining some weedy background.
Nomenclature: Glufosinate; glyphosate; imazamox; imazethapyr; canola, Brassica napus L. ‘45A71’, ‘Exceed’, ‘InVigor 2153’, ‘InVigor 2663’, ‘LG3295’.