Weed dynamics and conservation agriculture principles: A review

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Abstract

Conservation agriculture (CA) is based on minimum soil disturbance, permanent soil cover, and crop rotation; it is promoted as a sustainable alternative to systems involving conventional tillage. Adoption of CA changes weed dynamics and communities and therefore necessitates adjusting weed control methods. The objectives of this review are to summarize literature concerning CA principles and their interactive effects on weed life cycles and community composition, briefly review CA-appropriate cultural practices for additional weed control, and identify areas where further research is needed. No-till systems accumulate seeds near the soil surface where they are more likely to germinate but are also exposed to greater mortality risks through weather variability and predation. Assuming no seed input into the system, germinable seedbanks under no-till decrease more rapidly than under conventional tillage. Reducing tillage may shift weed communities from annual dicots to grassy annuals and perennials. Surface residues lower average soil temperatures and may delay emergence of both crops and weeds. Germination and growth of small-seeded annuals will suffer from restricted light availability, physical growth barriers and potential allelopathic effects from surface residue. Crop rotation affects weeds via allelopathy and altered timing of both crop management and resource demands. Rotations should incorporate crops sown in varied seasons (e.g., autumn and spring), annuals and perennials, different herbicides, and/or various crop families. Literature indicates implementing no-till without crop rotation can result in severe weed problems; greater rotational crop diversity results in easier weed management. Additional cultural practices for CA include: (i) selecting highly competitive varieties; (ii) altering planting dates; (iii) preventing weed seed recruitment; (iv) adjusting planting arrangement, densities, and fertilizer placement; and (v) microbial bio-controls. Further research is needed concerning: (i) the interactive effects of tillage and surface residue on weeds; (ii) the use of models and/or meta-analyses to predict weed responses, and to identify intervention points in CA; and (iii) the weed-suppressive potential of longer (4+ years) rotations.

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Nichols, V., Verhulst, N., Cox, R., & Govaerts, B. (2015, November 1). Weed dynamics and conservation agriculture principles: A review. Field Crops Research. Elsevier. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fcr.2015.07.012

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