Seed germination ecology of soldier thistle (Picnomon acarna): an invasive weed of rainfed crops in Iran.
Soldier thistle [Picnomon acarna (L.) Cass.] is widely distributed throughout rainfed fields across western Iran, where it decreases crop yields and interferes with harvest operations. This study was conducted to determine the influence of different factors on seed germination and seedling emergence of P. acarna. Freshly harvested seeds were dormant and required an after-ripening period for breaking dormancy. Seed germination was greatly promoted by light. Germination occurred over a wide spectrum of constant and fluctuating temperature regimes, ranging from 5 to 35 C, with highest germination at constant (74%) and fluctuating (94%) temperatures of 20 and 20/10 C. Seed germination of P. acarna was tolerant to osmotic potential, while salt stress significantly inhibited its germination percentage. pH was not an inhibiting factor for germination of P. acarna seeds. Seedling emergence decreased exponentially with an increase in seed burial depth in the soil; at soil burial depths of 4 cm or greater, no seedlings were able to reach the soil surface. The results suggest that significant seed germination of P. acarna in rainfed fields is possible, and the weed has great potential to spread throughout rainfed systems in western Iran. Based on these results, effective control of P. acarna can be achieved by applying interrow cultivation in row crops and deep tillage at seedbed preparation.