Management of grass weeds in overwintering stubbles
Marshall, H.M.L., Froud-Williams, R.J. and Orson, J.H. (2007) Management of grass weeds in overwintering stubbles. Aspects of Applied Biology, 81. pp. 141-148. ISSN 0265-1491
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With uncertainty concerning the future of set-aside, over-wintering stubble is an attractive management option within the agri-environment scheme. Over-wintering stubbles could be included as part of rotational set-aside, benefiting farmland biodiversity. However, there is little research on managing stubbles to maximise weed seed loss, so farmers may be reluctant to adopt this option for fear of increased weed infestation. The purpose of this investigation is to develop effective management of over-wintering stubbles to minimise pernicious grass weeds in sequential crops, whilst maintaining beneficial species diversity. Research has focused on four annual grass-weeds (Alopecurus myosuroides, Anisantha sterilis, Bromus commutatus and Lolium multiflorum) of increased occurrence and/or resistance to herbicides. Hitherto, work has concentrated on the effects of stubble manipulation on weed seed germination and mortality, in particular by straw spreading or removal after harvest. The dynamics of artificially inoculated weed populations were monitored from harvest until early spring. Results obtained indicate that where straw is retained on the soil surface, it provides a favourable microclimate for seed depletion of Anisantha sterilis and Bromus commutatus through germination. Conversely, greater depletion of Alopecurus myosuroides and Lolium multiflorum seed occurred from stubbles in which a straw layer was absent. Seed recovery work provided evidence that most seeds remaining ungerminated throughout the trial period were still viable, but a large proportion of the seeds sown were unaccounted for. As these species are not generally favoured as a food source, the as yet unknown fate of these seeds has implications for subsequent grass-weed infestations.