The impact of landscape structure and sown grass margin strips on weed assemblages in arable crops and their boundaries


Dr Jon Marshall, Marshall Agroecology Limited, 2 Nut Tree Cottages, Barton, Winscombe, Somerset BS25 1DU, UK. Tel: (+44) 1934 844844; Fax: (+44) 7006 072626; E-mail:


A paired-field study was made in southern England in arable fields, each with or without sown 6-m wide grass margin strips. Seven field pairs were located in each of small, intermediate and open landscapes, which were based on mean field size. Ground cover, plant species diversity and assemblages were assessed in crop centres, crop edges and non-crop field boundaries. The data were used to test for effects of sown grass margins, differences in field location, impacts on rare weed species and for landscape effects on weed assemblages. Significantly higher plant species diversity was found in boundaries protected by buffer strips. Annual weeds associated with field edges, notably Anisantha sterilis, were found at lower cover where perennial grass strips were present. Sown grass strips enhanced boundary plant diversity, particularly by increasing polycarpic species. Margin strips had a small influence on the weed flora of the crop edge, possibly reducing weed cover, but had no influence on floras of field centres. Field size and landscape context did not affect weed assemblages, which show marked field-to-field variability, though crop type was an important influence. Grass margins did not enhance rare arable weed species and may be a threat to them, if margins are sited where such species are known to occur in the seedbank. With this exception, grass strips are a positive influence on boundary flora diversity and reduce margin weeds in arable landscapes.