Plant Ecology

, Volume 212, Issue 11, pp 1831-1839

First online:

Asymmetrical intraspecific competition in Echinochloa crus-galli is related to differences in the timing of seedling emergence and seedling vigour

  • Zdenka MartinkovaAffiliated withCrop Research Institute
  • , Alois HonekAffiliated withCrop Research Institute Email author 

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Individual size is an important factor that determines fitness in annual plants. Variation in size originates at the seedling stage based on differences in seedling vigour and time of emergence, ensuing asymmetrical intraspecific competition between early- and late-established plants. The effects of the order of seedling emergence on characteristics of barnyard grass (Echinochloa crus-galli) were studied. In the first experiment, competition between pairs of plants, one of which was sown and emerged 0, 3, 6 or 12 days earlier than the other, was determined. In the second experiment, competition between two plants that were sown at the same time, but emerged at different times because of variation in seed quality, was determined. Competition decreased plant mass, tillering, height and the number of caryopses per panicle, but not time to earing or root/shoot ratio. Plants that were sown 3 days after the first plants in competing pairs grew to 32% of the size of solitary control plants, with the effect of competition accounting for 40% and asymmetrical competition 28% of the total reduction in size. When a 3-day lag in germination was determined intrinsically, plant size was reduced to 19% of the control, with the effect of competition accounting for 34%, asymmetrical competition 15% and poor intrinsic quality of the plant 32% of the total reduction in size. Small environmentally induced delays and more importantly, intrinsically induced delays in the time of emergence result in a considerable decrease in final plant size and fitness.


Barnyard grass Seedling emergence Plant growth Biomass