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Management of newly established field margins on nutrient-rich soil to reduce weed spread and seed rain into adjacent crops


D Reheul, Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, Coupure Links 653, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium. Tel: (+32) 9 264 60 96; Fax: (+32) 9 264 62 24; E-mail:


We studied the effect of different ways to establish and to maintain unfertilised field margins on the development of potential weeds and seed dispersal into adjacent crops. Plant communities in field margins either developed spontaneously or were sown with different seed mixtures of grasses and forbs. Margins were mown twice a year and the cuttings were either removed or left in situ. Three years after establishment, the importance of the unsown rhizomatous species Elytrigia repens and Urtica dioica was significantly higher in the unsown community or when cuttings were not removed after mowing. Seed dispersal from the margin into adjacent crops was important in the unsown community during the first year after establishment. Between 82% and 99% of the seeds were disseminated within 4 m from the margin strip. Overall risk of contaminating the adjacent crop with weeds originating from the field margin strip was concentrated within a few metres of the crop edge. In order to minimise the dissemination of weed species and invasion by noxious vegetatively propagated weeds on nutrient-rich land, it is recommended that field margins are established by sowing and cuttings removed after each cut.