Weed seed movement and dispersal strategies in the agricultural environment


* Stefano Benvenuti, Department of Agronomy and Agroecosystems Management, University of Pisa, Via S. Michele 2, Pisa 56124, Italy.
Email: sbenve@agr.unipi.it


This paper reviews the current knowledge on weed seed movement in an agricultural environment. Seed movement is analyzed both from an agronomic and ecological perspective, focusing predominantly on horizontal seed movement. Abiotic (anemochory and hydrochory), as well as biotic (autochory, myrmecochory, epizoochory, and endozoochory) weed seed dispersal typologies are examined, highlighting the mechanisms involved, the specializations displayed by weed species that have evolved by exploiting a particular dispersal mechanism, and their adaptive interaction with the surrounding ecosystem. Emphasis is also placed on the crucial role of human activity (anthropochory), which can affect natural (biotic and abiotic) weed seed dispersal at several stages, partly via the worldwide commercial seed trade but, above all, by crop management operations, thereby potentially facilitating the entry and spread of alien weed species. This phenomenon, together with the invasive expansion of existing weeds that more successfully coevolve and adapt to the new environment, might exert an adverse effect on biodiversity. In-depth knowledge of weed seed dispersal, survival, and germination mechanisms is therefore essential for effective and eco-compatible management of the weed phytocoenoses present in the agroecosystem in order to promote a rational trade-off between agricultural productivity and environmental protection.