The use of eucalyptus leaves for weed control in maize-based cropping systems is proposed. Aqueous extracts of eucalyptus are known to exert phytotoxicity on many weeds and crops, but there is also experimental evidence of the relative tolerance of maize. Based on in vitro dose-response bioassays of leaf aqueous extracts, we conducted greenhouse pot experiments testing incorporated eucalyptus leaves as green manure. The phytotoxic effects were tested on the germination, establishment and growth of maize and some representative accompanying weeds, in comparison to the PRE herbicide metolachlor. Eucalyptus fresh leaves incorporated into the soil as green manure at 1 and 2% w/w reduced the emergence of the dicot weed species redroot pigweed and black nightshade. After one month of incorporation, both doses reduced aerial biomass >94% two monocot weed species (barnyardgrass large crabgrass) with respect to the eucalyptus-free pots, and around 80% for the small seeded dicots. Although the aerial biomass of maize was reduced by 33%, the final relative yield of maize biomass with respect to the untreated control increased by 37%. On the assessment of the temporal phytotoxic effects, the reduction of aerial biomass in maize could be overcome by adopting a relay-planting of maize after 12 to 15 days from eucalyptus incorporation. Our results constitute evidence that the incorporation of E. globulus residues to soil could be a feasible practice to reduce the reliance on synthetic herbicides in maize-based cropping systems.
Nomenclature: S-metolachlor; barnyardgrass, Echinochloa crus-galli (L.) P. Beauv. ECHCG; black nightshade, Solanum nigrum L. SOLNI; eucalyptus, Eucalyptus globulus Labill. EUGL; large crabgrass, Digitaria sanguinalis (L.) Scop. DIGSA; redroot pigweed, Amaranthus retroflexus L. AMARE; maize, Zea mays L