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Environmental Influences on Growth and Reproduction of Invasive Commelina benghalensis
Commelina benghalensis (Benghal dayflower) is a noxious weed that is invading agricultural systems in the southeastern United States. We investigated the influences of nutrition, light, and photoperiod on growth and reproductive output of C. benghalensis. In the first experimental series, plants were grown under high or low soil nutrition combined with either full light or simulated shade. Lowered nutrition strongly inhibited vegetative growth and aboveground spathe production. Similar but smaller effects were exerted by a 50% reduction in light, simulating conditions within a developing canopy. In the second series of experiments, C. benghalensis plants were exposed to different photoperiod conditions that produced short- and long-day plants growing in similar photosynthetic periods. A short-day photoperiod decreased time to flowering by several days and led to a 40 to 60% reduction in vegetative growth, but reproduction above and below ground was unchanged. Collectively, the results indicate that (1) fertility management in highly weathered soils may strongly constrain competitiveness of C. benghalensis; (2) shorter photoperiods will limit vegetative competitiveness later in the growing seasons of most crops; and (3) the high degree of reproductive plasticity and output possessed by C. benghalensis will likely cause continual persistence problems in agricultural fields.
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