Seed dormancy models suggest that evaluation of environmental conditions should influence the decision to germinate and that waiting for more favourable conditions may increase potential fitness. However, because rapid emergence is often positively correlated with performance and survival, an alternative strategy to accelerate the rate of emergence may increase the potential for site pre-emption. This response is more likely to be found in seasonal environments with greater potential for rapid resource depletion in which early emergence may confer a competitive advantage. The experiments reported here found more rapid emergence in a perennial grass species when it was planted in potentially highly competitive interspecific neighbourhoods. This response suggests an inherent ability in seeds of this species to sense and respond to the competitive nature of the immediate neighbourhood.