Field experiments were carried out at the Facultad de Agronomía, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina (34°25′S, 58°25′W), to evaluate the possibility of reducing weed seedling emergence through the use of alfalfa cultivars with low levels of winter dormancy and by increasing plant density from 200 to 400 plants m−2. It was hypothesized that these treatments would alter the temperature regime and the red (R)–far-red (FR) ratio of radiation to which seeds were exposed. Responses to management treatments were recorded for bull thistle, cotton thistle, plumeless thistle, tall rocket, mustard, curly dock, and pigweed. During the alfalfa establishment year, pigweed and curly dock emergence was reduced by the nondormant cultivar established at high density. This reduction disappeared when soil beneath the canopy was fitted with heaters that mimicked bare-soil temperatures. Crop canopy presence during the establishment year was not effective in reducing mustard, cotton thistle, bull thistle, plumeless thistle, and tall rocket emergence. During the second and third years after crop establishment, the canopy of the nondormant alfalfa cultivar was effective in reducing germination of weed seeds placed on the soil surface during fall and winter. In contrast, the winter-dormant cultivar allowed the establishment of weeds during the winter period. These reductions in weed emergence were associated with a modification in the R–FR ratio perceived by the seeds located at the soil surface and could largely be removed by using FR filters to increase the R–FR ratio. These results suggest that the selection of a nondormant cultivar combined with an increase in plant density could effectively reduce weed populations in alfalfa.
Nomenclature: Bull thistle, Cirsium vulgare (Savi) Ten. CIRVU; cotton thistle, Onopordum acanthium L. ONRAC; curly dock, Rumex crispus L. RUMCR; mustard, Brassica campestris L. BRSRA; pigweed, Amaranthus quitensis H.B.K. AMAQU; plumeless thistle, Carduus acanthoides L. CRUAC; tall rocket, Sisymbrium altíssimum L. SSYAL; alfalfa, Medicago sativa L.‘Zeneca 420’, ‘Zeneca 990’.