Field experiments were established in fall 1999 and 2000 near Huntley, MT, to determine the effects of soil water content on wild oat seed mortality and seedling emergence. Four supplemental irrigation treatments were implemented from June through September to establish plots with varying soil water content. Wild oat seed mortality during the summer increased linearly as soil water content increased. For seed banks established in 1999 (1999SB), seed mortality increased, on average, from 36 to 55% in 2000, and 15 to 55% in 2001 as soil water content increased from 6 to 24%. For seed banks established in 2000 (2000SB), seed mortality increased, on average, from 38 to 88% in 2001 and 53 to 79% in 2002 as soil water content increased from 6 to 24%. Increasing soil water content likely increased the activity of microorganisms that cause mortality in wild oat seeds. The increasing seed mortality rates (due to increasing soil water content) resulted in greater annual declines of wild oat seed banks and 2-yr cumulative decline rates. Total season emergence percentage was not affected by irrigation treatment. Results show that weed seed bank decline is more rapid in moist than in dry soils and suggest that management practices that increase or conserve soil moisture will also increase the rate of wild oat seed bank decline.
Nomenclature: Wild oat, Avena fatua L., AVEFA.