Knowledge of Palmer amaranth demographics and biology is essential for the development and implementation of weed management strategies. A field experiment was conducted to investigate the effects of Palmer amaranth density on seedling mortality, flowering initiation, and flowering progress throughout the growing season and biomass production and fecundity in wide-row soybean. The experimental design was a randomized complete block design with three levels of Palmer amaranth density-clusters: high, medium, and low. Palmer amaranth mortality rate was greater at high Palmer amaranth population density-cluster, reaching a peak within 30 to 40 d after Palmer amaranth emergence (DAE) (0.55 and 0.80 for 2014 and 2015, respectively), in comparison with mortality rate at medium and lower density-clusters. Likewise, as Palmer amaranth density increased, biomass and seed production per unit area of the weed also increased. Biomass production at the high density-cluster in 2014 was 664.7 g m-2 compared with 542.9 and 422.1 g m -2 at medium and low density-clusters, respectively. Similarly, biomass production at high density-cluster in 2015 was 100.6 g m-2 compared with 37.3 and 34.2 at medium and low density-clusters, respectively. In addition, seeds produced at high density-cluster were 1.5 million and 245,400 seeds m-2 for 2014 and 2015, respectively. Seed production was reduced by 29% and 54% in 2014 and by 65% and 75% in 2015 at medium and low density-clusters, respectively. Earlier flowering initiation (i.e., between 30 to 40 DAE) occurred in higher Palmer amaranth density-clusters, indicating a trade-off between reproduction and survival at high densities and more stressed environments for species survival. Palmer amaranth male-to-female sex ratio was greater at high densities, 1.3 and 1.9, compared with lower densities of 0.6 to 0.7 and 0.7 to 0.8 in 2014 and 2015, respectively. The plasticity of Palmer amaranth population and population-structure regulation, vegetative growth, and flowering shifts at various levels of intraspecific competition (i.e., high vs. low population density-clusters) and the trade-off between these biological transitions merits further investigation.
Nomenclature: Palmer amaranth, Amaranthus palmeri S. Wats.; soybean, Glycine max (L.) Merr.