Know your enemy: are biochemical substances the secret weapon of common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia L.) in the fierce competition with crops and native weeds?
Following the "novel weapon hypothesis", the invasiveness of non-native species like common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia L.) can result from a loss of natural competitors due to the production of chemical compounds by the non-native species that unfavorably affect native communities. In this case, native plants may not be able to tolerate compounds released by a non-native plant that has not co-evolved in the same environment. Particularly the genus Ambrosia produces several types of organic compounds, which have a broad spectrum of biological activities and which could be major drivers in the successful invasion and competition process of common ragweed. To (1) asses the chemical profile of the aboveground biomass of common ragweed four different extracts (H2O, hexane extract, methanol extract and essential oil) were prepared and analysed for their content substances. In the next step a laboratory experiment was implemented to (2) determine the effects of different concentrations of these substances on germination and seedling development of three different crops (soybean, wheat, and rapeseed), native weedy species (Chenopodium album, Senecio vulgaris and Arabidopsis thaliana) and on common ragweed itself. Results showed that germination as well as seedling development was significantly influenced by the chemical compounds in the extracts. Even though the extracts did not affect the germination capacity of crops, severe reduction in root and shoot growth were observed with all three tested crops. The highest inhibitory effect on germination of native weedy species as well as common ragweed was observed with essential oil and the aqueous extract.