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Weed competition in willow coppice crops: the cause and extent of yield losses

Authors


Sage The Game Conservancy Trust, Fordingbridge, Hampshire SP6 1EF, UK. Tel: (+44) 01425 652381; Fax: (+44) 01425 655848; E-mail: rsage@game-conservancy.org.uk

Abstract

Growth in 2-year-old willow Salix spp., grown in the short-rotation coppice (SRC) system on agricultural land, was compared in 30 weeded and 30 unweeded plots in each of 2 years after cutting. Non-destructive assessment methods of both crop and weed biomass were used. Coppice growth in year I was greater in the weeded plots than in the unweeded plots. In year II, coppice growth was not different between plots so that, over the 2-year study period, the coppice yield reductions with weeds reflected the losses in year I only. There was considerable variation in the amount of weeds in the unweeded plots. The relationship between the volume of weeds present and the extent of the coppice yield reduction over 1 and 2 years after cutting are described by linear models. Soil moisture and nutrient content, when measured in mid-summer, were not different between plots in either year. In year I, mid-summer coppice height was greater in the weedy plots, while stem numbers in both years and canopy density in year II were lower in the weedy plots. These results indicate that tall weeds competing for light and space in the first year of growth, rather than moisture or nutrient stress, caused fewer (and taller) stems to grow from the coppice stools, leading to the observed reductions in biomass.

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