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weed seed bank definition

Adapted from Rahman et al. (1996) .

Webster and Coble (1997) reported on weed shifts in major crops of the Southeastern states over a 22-year period (1974–1995) when herbicides were the major means of weed control. Sicklepod and bermudagrass had become the most troublesome weeds. The largest decreases in weed pressure were found with Johnsongrass, crabgrasses, and common cocklebur. Morningglories and nutsedges remained relatively constant. The weeds of greatest importance in soybean, peanut, and cotton are the pigweeds.

Integrated Weed Management in Organic Farming

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The major part of weeds in agricultural land reproduce and survive as seeds, thus the soil weed seedbank represents the main source of future weed infestations. Depletion of the weed seedbank can be obtained by increasing seed losses and/or reducing seed inputs. Losses can occur through seed predation, seed decay, and increased germination ( Gallandt, 2006 ).

Richter et al. (2002) have reviewed the use of models to evaluate the dynamics of herbicide resistance and to develop suitable anti-resistance strategies. Herbicide resistance is impacted by a high initial frequency of resistance alleles in a population, out-breeding, dominance of inheritance, a short persistence of the seed bank in the soil, and the lack of a fitness penalty for resistant versus susceptible biotypes of a weed species, along with agronomic factors having a positive influence on weed development. The occurrence of herbicide-resistant weeds in a field usually means the loss of an effective control measure. This is particularly serious if resistance develops in species for which there are few if any effective alternatives. As a rapid increase in the development of herbicides with new modes of action is not likely, and since economic and environmental conditions often will not support cultural control measures or alternative cropping systems, it is important to manage resistance wisely in order to avoid further loss of herbicides.

Incorporated green manures or surface residues of cover crops can reduce the establishment of small-seeded weeds through allelopathy and/or physical hindrance. Thus, these practices can provide a measure of selective weed control for transplanted or large-seeded crops, which are tolerant to the stresses imposed by cover crop residues. This selectivity does not apply to small-seeded, direct sown vegetables like carrots and salad greens, which are at least as sensitive to these cover crop effects as small-seeded weeds.

Maintaining excellent weed control for several consecutive seasons can eliminate a large majority of the weed seed bank, but a small percentage of viable, highly dormant seeds persist, which can be difficult to eliminate (Egley, 1986). Researchers are seeking more effective means to flush out these dormant seeds through multiple stimuli (Egley, 1986).

For example, some but not all weed species have light-responsive seeds, and dark cultivation reduces emergence only in the light responders. Similarly, careful nitrogen (N) management can reduce problems with nitrate responders but have no effect on nonresponders and could even favor a weed that is well adapted to low levels of soluble N. The best approach to weed seed bank management is to design your strategy around the four or five most serious weeds present, then monitor changes in the weed flora over time, noting what new weed species emerge as the original target weed species decline. Then change your seed bank management strategy accordingly. Plan on making such adjustments every few years, and if possible, keep a sense of curiosity and humor about the weeds!

Challenge of Weed Seed Bank Diversity

Organic growers aim to manage their weed seed banks in the opposite fashion from a long term savings account: minimize “deposits,” and maximize “withdrawals” (Forcella, 2003). Weed seed bank deposits include:

Use these strategies to maximize losses (withdrawals) from the weed seed bank:

Figure 2. Vertical distribution of weed seeds in a loamy sand soil (top) and a silty loam soil (bottom). Figure credit: adapted from Clements et al. (1996) by Fabian Menalled, MSU Extension, Montana State University.

Weed seed bank withdrawals include: