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Review article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

An ecological future for weed science to sustain crop production and the environment. A review

MacLaren, Chloe; Storkey, Jonathan; Menegat, Alexander; Metcalfe, Helen; Dehnen-Schmutz, Katharina

Abstract

Sustainable strategies for managing weeds are critical to meeting agriculture's potential to feed the world's population while conserving the ecosystems and biodiversity on which we depend. The dominant paradigm of weed management in developed countries is currently founded on the two principal tools of herbicides and tillage to remove weeds. However, evidence of negative environmental impacts from both tools is growing, and herbicide resistance is increasingly prevalent. These challenges emerge from a lack of attention to how weeds interact with and are regulated by the agroecosystem as a whole. Novel technological tools proposed for weed control, such as new herbicides, gene editing, and seed destructors, do not address these systemic challenges and thus are unlikely to provide truly sustainable solutions. Combining multiple tools and techniques in an Integrated Weed Management strategy is a step forward, but many integrated strategies still remain overly reliant on too few tools. In contrast, advances in weed ecology are revealing a wealth of options to manage weedsat the agroecosystem levelthat, rather than aiming to eradicate weeds, act to regulate populations to limit their negative impacts while conserving diversity. Here, we review the current state of knowledge in weed ecology and identify how this can be translated into practical weed management. The major points are the following: (1) the diversity and type of crops, management actions and limiting resources can be manipulated to limit weed competitiveness while promoting weed diversity; (2) in contrast to technological tools, ecological approaches to weed management tend to be synergistic with other agroecosystem functions; and (3) there are many existing practices compatible with this approach that could be integrated into current systems, alongside new options to explore. Overall, this review demonstrates that integrating systems-level ecological thinking into agronomic decision-making offers the best route to achieving sustainable weed management.

Keywords

Ecological weed management; Sustainability; Agroecosystems; Weed diversity; Weed community; Weed-crop competition

Published in

Agronomy for Sustainable Development
2020, volume: 40, number: 4, article number: 24
Publisher: SPRINGER FRANCE

Authors' information

MacLaren, Chloe
Rothamsted research
Storkey, Jonathan
Rothamsted research
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Crop Production Ecology
Metcalfe, Helen
Rothamsted research
Dehnen-Schmutz, Katharina
Coventry University

Associated SLU-program

SLU Network Plant Protection

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG2 Zero hunger
SDG12 Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
SDG17 Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development
SDG15 Life on land

UKÄ Subject classification

Ecology
Agricultural Science

Publication Identifiers

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13593-020-00631-6

URI (permanent link to this page)

https://res.slu.se/id/publ/107004