The nitrogen (N) response of competing plants may be affected by photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) availability and maximum potential growth rate, which determine N requirements. The responses of two crop (corn and soybean) and six weed species (common lambsquarters, common waterhemp, giant foxtail, velvetleaf, wild mustard, and woolly cupgrass) in low and high (150 and 450 μmol m−2 s−1) PAR levels to daily fertilization with either low or high (0.2 or 7.5 mM) NH4NO3 levels were studied. Leaf area of all species responded positively to N by 8 d after emergence (DAE) when grown in high PAR; in low PAR, most species did not respond until 11 DAE. Dry weight and leaf area of all species at 18 DAE were greater with high than with low N. These responses to high N were also greater in high than in low PAR for all species. Dry weights with high N were up to 100% greater in low PAR and up to 700% greater in high PAR than dry weights with low N. These responses suggest that low PAR reduced the benefit of N to the plants. The regression of relative growth rate (RGR) with high N to RGR with low N had a slope that was less than unity (β = 0.79), indicating that species with a higher RGR with high N experienced greater decreases in RGR with low N. Similarly, the sensitivity (change in RGR) of plants grown with high and low N was positively related to RGR with high N. RGR differences among crop and weed species may be related to differences in N requirement that could be exploited for weed management. RGR and seed size were negatively correlated, which may explain previous observations that small-seeded weeds were more sensitive to environmental stress.
Nomenclature: Common lambsquarters, Chenopodium album L. CHEAL; common waterhemp, Amaranthus rudis Sauer AMATA; giant foxtail, Setaria faberi Herrm. SETFA; velvetleaf, Abutilon theophrasti Medicus ABUTH; wild mustard, Brassica kaber (DC.) L. C. Wheeler SINAR; woolly cupgrass, Eriochloa villosa (Thunb.) Kunth ERBVI; corn, Zea mays ZEAMA; soybean, Glycine max L. GLYMX.