Impact of different mulching treatments on weed flora and productivity of maize (Zea mays L.) and sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.).
The concerns on weed control through herbicides are increasing due to their negative impacts on environment and human health. Therefore, alternative weed management methods are inevitable for sustainable crop production and lowering the negative consequences of herbicides. Mulching is an environment-friendly weed management approach capable of substituting herbicides to significant extent. Therefore, this study evaluated the role of different mulching treatments on suppressing weed flora in maize (Zea mays L.) and sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.) crops. Furthermore, the impact of different mulching treatments on the productivity of both crops was also investigated. Three mulch treatments, i.e., plastic mulch (PLM), sorghum mulch (SM) and paper mulch (PM) along with two controls, i.e., weed-free (WF) and weedy-check (WC) were included in the study. Different mulch treatments significantly altered weed flora in both crops. The PLM and PM resulted in the highest suppression (43-47%) of weed flora compared to WC treatment in both crops. The highest and the lowest weed diversity was recorded for WC and WF treatments, respectively. Different allometric traits, i.e., leaf area index, crop growth rate and root length of both crops were significantly improved by PLM as compared to the WC. Overall, maize crop recorded higher density of individual and total weeds compared to sunflower with WC treatment. The density of individual and total weeds was significantly lowered by PLM compared to WC treatment in both crops. Similarly, higher growth and yield-related traits of both crops were noted with PLM compared to the rest of the mulching treatments. Results of the current study warrant that PLM could suppress weed flora and improve the productivity of both crops. However, PLM alone could not provide 100% control over weed flora; therefore, it should be combined with other weed management approaches for successful weed control in both crops.