Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Plant Biology

First Advisor

Gibson, David

Second Advisor

Young, Bryan


Some of the most problematic agricultural weeds found in the Midwest United States are found in the Amaranthaceae family, such as Amaranthus palmeri and A. tuberculatus. These summer annual weeds are troublesome due to their competitive ability, high seed production, and resistance to herbicides from several modes of action which complicates management in field crops and has led to significant yield loss. Achyranthes japonica and Iresine rhizomatosa are two perennial species in the same family as A. palmeri and A. tuberculatus that occur in similar habitats as one another, but differ in invasiveness. Achyranthes japonica is a non-native, invasive species that is becoming a threat to forested areas and has been observed along agricultural field margins. Iresine rhizomatosa also occurs in forest habitats but is an endangered species in Illinois. This research seeks to determine the comparative life history and relative competitiveness of closely related weedy species when challenged with a dominant species. Specifically, select, closely related weedy species in the Amaranthaceae plant family that occur in southern Illinois were compared, i.e., Achyranthes japonica, Amaranthus palmeri, Amaranthus tuberculatus, and Iresine rhizomatosa. The first study examined the life history characteristics of A. japonica in regards to survivorship, growth and fecundity at two sites in southern Illinois (Chapter 2). Achyranthes japonica is a relatively new invasive species that has been poorly studied. This experiment showed that regardless of site, environmental factors had a significant effect on seedling emergence and seed viability, which decreased from 2012 to 2013 during a drought year and rebounded from 2013 to 2014 following flooding. On average, individuals at the driest site had higher performance and fecundity, regardless of year. The second experiment tested the relative competitive effect and response of the Amaranthaceae species to Glycine max, first in a greenhouse study that tested shading and nitrogen resource drawdown for each species, and second in a controlled field experiment that tested intraspecific competition (Chapter 3). In addition, A. japonica seedlings were planted as either unmanipulated seedlings (uncut A. japonica) or as a seedling cut back to the soil surface at the four-node stage (cut A. japonica) at which point seedlings have reached a perennial growth stage. The greenhouse experiment showed that the four species each drew down light significantly, but not nitrogen. Shading decreased the aboveground biomass of the species in comparison to unshaded controls. Supplemental nitrogen, however, increased the aboveground biomass of A. palmeri and A. japonica. The supporting controlled field experiment showed that the competitive response of the weed species to the presence of G. max showed a reduction in height compared to the weed species grown in monocultures. Glycine max and the weed species, except I. rhizomatosa, showed a similar competitive effect and response when aboveground biomass was measured. Achyranthes japonica attained the highest belowground biomass when grown as a monoculture and in the presence of G. max. A competitive effect ranking was determined to be A. palmeri > A. tuberculatus > cut A. japonica = uncut A. japonica = I. rhizomatosa with the competitive response ranking being the inverse. The third study implemented an integral projection model (IPM) to determine the population growth rate of each species and how they compared to one another (Chapter 4). This experiment showed that A. palmeri, A. tuberculatus and A. japonica each had a population growth rate greater than one indicating rapidly growing populations. By contrast, I. rhizomatosa had a population growth rate less than one indicating a declining population. The results suggest that A. japonica has not yet shown the ability to escape management strategies in agricultural fields implemented by farmers, but it is still an aggressive invasive species that farmers and land owners need to be able to identify. This species has many similar characteristics to the Amaranthus species, such as the ability to colonize in areas with limiting resources, continual flushes of germination throughout the growing season, the ability to outcompete other weed species, and high fecundity but, A. japonica also is a perennial species that can withstand removal of shoot material and has a high germination rate. Based on these results, only early detection and rapid response methods should be relied on to keep these species out of areas in and around agricultural fields. Iresine rhizomatosa’s performance in these studies was consistent with its rarity.




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