Growing crops that exhibit a high level of competition with weeds increases opportunities to practice integrated weed management and reduce herbicide inputs. The recent development and market dominance of hybrid canola cultivars provides an opportunity to reassess the relative competitive ability of canola cultivars with small-grain cereals. Direct-seeded (no-till) experiments were conducted at five western Canada locations from 2006 to 2008 to compare the competitive ability of canola cultivars vs. small-grain cereals. The relative competitive ability of the species and cultivars was determined by assessing monocot and dicot weed biomass at different times throughout the growing season as well as oat (simulated weed) seed production. Under most conditions, but especially under warm and relatively dry environments, barley cultivars had the greatest relative competitive ability. Rye and triticale were also highly competitive species under most environmental conditions. Canada Prairie Spring Red wheat and Canada Western Red Spring wheat cultivars usually were the least competitive cereal crops, but there were exceptions in some environments. Canola hybrids were more competitive than open-pollinated canola cultivars. More importantly, under cool, low growing degree day conditions, canola hybrids were as competitive as barley, especially with dicot weeds. Under most conditions, hybrid canola growers on the Canadian Prairies are well advised to avoid the additional selection pressure inherent with a second in-crop herbicide application. Combining competitive cultivars of any species with optimal agronomic practices that facilitate crop health will enhance cropping system sustainability and allow growers to extend the life of their valuable herbicide tools.
Nomenclature: Barley, Hordeum vulgare L.; canola, Brassica napus L. or Brassica rapa L.; oat, Avena sativa L.; rye, Secale cereale L.; triticale, × Triticosecale W.; wheat, Triticum aestivum L.