Weeds are often the major biological constraint to growing legume crops successfully, and an understanding of the critical period of weed control (CPWC) is important for developing environmentally sustainable weed management practices to prevent unacceptable yield loss. Therefore, we carried out two field experiments to identify the CPWC for two grain legume crops traditionally grown in Mediterranean areas: chickpea and faba bean. The experiments were conducted at two sites both located in the Sicilian inland (Italy). In chickpea, when weeds were left to compete with the crop for the whole cycle, the grain yield reduction was on average about 85% of the weed-free yield, whereas in faba bean the reduction was less severe (on average about 60% of the weed-free yield). The onset of the CPWC at a 5% yield loss level varied by species, occurring later in faba bean than in chickpea (on average, 261 and 428 growing degree days after emergence for chickpea and faba bean, respectively). In both species, the end of the CPWC occurred at the early full-flowering stage when the canopy of each crop enclosed the interrow space. On the whole, the CPWC at a 5% yield loss level ranged from 50 to 69 d in chickpea and from 28 to 33 d in faba bean. The results highlight the fact that faba bean has a higher competitive ability against weeds than chickpea. This could be attributable both to more vigorous early growth and to the plant's greater height, both factors related to a greater shading ability and, consequently, to a better ability to suppress weeds.
Nomenclature: Faba bean, Vicia faba L. var. minor; chickpea, Cicer arietinum L.