Purple and yellow nutsedge are the most troublesome weeds of vegetable crops in the southeast United States. Elimination of methyl bromide use will require alternative management programs to suppress nutsedge growth and interference in vegetables. Polyethylene mulch is an effective barrier for most weeds; however, nutsedges can proliferate in beds covered with polyethylene mulch. The influence of polyethylene mulch on shoot production and lateral expansion patterns of single tubers of purple nutsedge and yellow nutsedge over time was evaluated in field studies. Purple nutsedge patch size was similar in the black mulch treatment and nonmulched control after 8 and 16 wk after planting (WAP). By the end of the growing season, purple nutsedge patch size in the black mulch treatment was nearly twice that in the nonmulched control. At 32 WAP, there were 1,550 shoots in the 16.1 m2 patch in the black mulch treatment and 790 shoots in the 8.1 m2 patch in the nonmulched control. In contrast, yellow nutsedge growth was suppressed in the black mulch treatment, relative to the nonmulched control. Compared with the black mulch treatment at 16 and 24 WAP, the nonmulched control produced nearly three times as many yellow nutsedge shoots (140 shoots at 16 WAP and 210 shoots at 24 WAP) and patches that were twice the size (0.10 m2 at 16 WAP and 0.18 m2 at 24 WAP). These data indicate that there are significant differences in the growth habits of the two nutsedges species in mulched vegetable systems. The differences in response to black mulch will likely lead to purple nutsedge becoming a greater problem, relative to yellow nutsedge, in vegetable systems. The rapid expansion of a single purple nutsedge shoot to form a patch that is 22.1 m2 and containing 3,440 shoots at 60 WAP illustrates the importance of managing this species.
Nomenclature: Purple nutsedge, Cyperus rotundus L. CYPRO; yellow nutsedge, Cyperus esculentus L. CYPES.