Extension Ag Update
December 2008
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Controlling Weed Seeds in the Soil Seedbank
Adam S. Davis, Brian J. Schutte, James Iannuzzi, and Karen A. Renner
Weed Science 2008 56:676–684

Mechanical methods offer alternatives to reducing weed seedbank persistence.  . Research by Davis and others, reports that the destruction of weed seed as well as natural predation are viable option to reduce weed populations.   Common lambsquarters, field pennycress, giant foxtail, kochia, velvetleaf, and yellow foxtail seeds were evaluated for their persistence in the soil.  They examined the chemical and physical properties of seed coats for defense mechanisms. The article “Chemical and Physical Defense of Weed Seeds in Relation to Soil Seedbank Persistence” was published in Weed Science.

Their research results indicated that as seed persistence increased, chemical protection decreased.  Therefore, physical damage was an important control mechanism.  It only took a bit of damage to the seed coat of these highly persistent weed to kill the seeds because they lacked the ability to protect themselves from fungi and bacteria infections.  Researchers suggest that the use of harvest machinery be looked at again as a way to cause this damage.  A method that was historically used, prior to herbicides.

Another mechanical approach supported by this study was encouraging predators, such as arthropods, which play an important role in the destruction of weed seeds.  They consume or damage weed seeds by piercing the seed coats, which allows bacteria or fungi to enter the seeds.

They concluded that mechanical methods of managing weed seedbanks through harvest machinery and predators are alternatives to herbicides

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