Ipomoea batatas (sweet potato), a promising replacement control crop for the invasive alien plant Ageratina adenophora (Asteraceae) in China.
Ipomoea batatas (L.) Lam has been recognized as a very competitive crop against certain farming weeds, but more information is required to support its potential field application. The current study utilized a de Wit replacement series incorporating five ratios of I. batatas and Ageratina adenophora (Spreng.) R. M. King and H. Rob plants in 9 m2 plots in 2018. In monoculture, the main stem length, leafstalk length, leaf area, and biomass of I. batatas were significantly higher than those of A. adenophora. In mixed culture, the plant height, branch, leaf, and biomass of A. adenophora were significantly suppressed (P < 0.05) by I. batatas. The relative yield (RY) of I. batatas was significantly higher than 1.0, and the RY of A. adenophora was significantly less than 1.0 (P < 0.05) in mixed culture, indicating that the intraspecific competition was higher than interspecific competition for I. batatas, but the intraspecific competition was less than interspecific competition for A. adenophora. The competitive balance index of I. batatas demonstrated a higher competitive ability than A. adenophora. The net photosynthetic rate (Pn) of I. batatas and A. adenophora increased gradually from July to September, and then decreased from September to November in all treatments. The Pn of I. batatas was higher than that of A. adenophora in July and August, less than that of A. adenophora from September to November in monoculture, and the Pn of A. adenophora was significantly suppressed (P < 0.05) with increasing proportions of I. batatas in mixed culture after August. The activities of antioxidant enzymes superoxide dismutase, peroxidase and catalase for A. adenophora were significantly reduced (P < 0.05) with increasing proportions of I. batatas in mixed culture. Our results showed that plant growth of A. adenophora was significantly suppressed by I. batatas competition due to certain morphological and physiological advantages of I. batatas. Therefore, I. batatas is a promising replacement control candidate for managing the infestations of A. adenophora, reducing the soil seed bank and seedlings of A. adenophora..