Developing more competitive rice cultivars could help improve weed management and reduce dependency on herbicides. To achieve this goal, an understanding of key traits related to competitiveness is critical. Experiments were conducted at Gelemen and Bafra districts of Samsun province in Turkey between 2008 and 2009 to measure the competitiveness of rice cultivars against Echinochloa crus-galli, a problematic weed in rice fields. Five rice cultivars (Osmancik, KIZIhrmak, Karadeniz, Koral and Negis) and five E. crus-galli densities (0, 5, 10, 20, and 30 plants m(-2)) were used. Koral produced significantly more tillers than the other cultivars irrespective of E. crus-galli densities and reduced E. crus-galli tiller production by about 29.5% at Gelemen and 15.8% at Bafra at the highest weed density. E. crus-galli interference reduced rice height and there was a density dependent relationship. Koral was the most competitive cultivar; it maintained high biomass accumulation in early growth stages and suffered smaller reductions in plant height in the presence of E. crus-galli, compared to the other cultivars. In the absence of weed competition. Koral and Negis produced the highest yields at both locations. Stepwise regression analyses of the combined data from both years showed tillering capacity, early growth crop biomass, and plant height were critical traits related to competitiveness. These traits should be considered by plant breeders in their efforts to develop rice cultivars with enhanced competitiveness against weeds. Development of such cultivars could substantially reduce herbicide and labor inputs for rice production. (C) 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.