Common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia L.) causes severe yield losses in soybean and impairs Bradyrhizobium japonicum infection.
Ambrosia artemisiifolia L. (Asteraceae), known as common ragweed, is an annual herbaceous species native to North America that has become one of the most economically important weeds in arable fields throughout Central Europe. Its large ecological amplitude enables the species to become established in several types of environments, and management options to effectively contain its spread are limited due to a lack of efficacy, high cost, or lack of awareness. In the last decade, in particular, soybean fields have been severely affected by common ragweed invasion. However, until now, information on the yield-decreasing effects of the plant has been scarce. Therefore, the aim of this study was to evaluate the competition effects of common ragweed on (1) soybean growth (aboveground/belowground), (2) the yield of two different soybean cultivars, and (3) the nodulation potential. Based on a greenhouse and biennial field trial, we found that in plots with the highest common ragweed biomass, the soybean yield loss accounted for 84% compared to the weed-free control, on average. The number of nodules, in addition to the mean nodule weight, which are tightly correlated with soybean yield, were significantly reduced by the presence of common ragweed. Just one common ragweed plant per square meter reduced the number of nodules by 56%, and consequently led to a decrease in yield of 18%. Although it has been reported that the genus Ambrosia produces and releases several types of secondary metabolites, little is known about the influence of these chemical compounds on soybean growth and nodulation. Thus, there is substantial need for research to understand the mechanisms behind the interaction between common ragweed and soybean, with a view to finding new approaches for improved common ragweed control, thereby protecting soybean and other crops against substantial yield losses.