Which future for weed science?


C. Fernandez-Quintanilla, Centro de Ciencias Medioambientales, CSIC, Serrano 115 B, 28006 Madrid, Spain. Tel: (+34) 91 562 5020; Fax: (+34) 91 568 0800; E-mail: cesar@ccma.csic.es


Weed science is a discipline dealing with a serious biotic threat capable of causing heavy economic, environmental or aesthetic losses to society. In the past, we have been successful in providing efficient, relatively cheap and safe technologies to manage this threat in a variety of situations. We have been able to provide practical advice and options for the end-users based on a broad scientific knowledge. In order to continue this success, we need to anticipate the future and change faster than the world around us. Numerous opportunities are open to us. Weed science should enter the global climate change arena, getting involved in both mitigation (improving the carbon efficiency of agriculture and forestry) and adaptation (developing effective practices for the new crops, new production systems and the new weeds). We should find adequate answers to the new demands originating from the enlargement of farms and fields, the increased concern about the conservation of biodiversity and the growing consumer demands on food safety. We should look for new clients in non-agricultural sectors, offering them our proved expertise and know-how. We should try to exploit the new opportunities arising as a result of cross-fertilisation of weed science with other disciplines. At the same time, we need to be aware of some threats: the dominance of short-term commercial and political objectives in setting research agendas, the reduced R&D resources invested in the agrochemical industry in the development of new herbicides and the increasing ‘publish or perish’ pressure in the public research sector.