An investigation to enhance understanding of the stimulation of weed seedling emergence by soil disturbance



Enhanced understanding of soil disturbance effects on weed seedling recruitment will help guide improved management approaches. Field experiments were conducted at 16 site-years at 10 research farms across Europe and North America to (i) quantify superficial soil disturbance (SSD) effects on Chenopodium album emergence and (ii) clarify adaptive emergence behaviour in frequently disturbed environments. Each site-year contained factorial combinations of two seed populations (local and common, with the common population studied at all site-years) and six SSD timings [0, 50, 100, 150, 200 day-degrees (d°C, base temperature 3°C) after first emergence from undisturbed soil]. Analytical units in this study were emergence flushes. Flush magnitudes (maximum weekly emergence per count flush) and flush frequencies (flushes year−1) were compared between disturbed and undisturbed seedbanks. One year after burial, SSD promoted seedling emergence relative to undisturbed seedbanks by increasing flush magnitude rather than increasing flush frequency. Two years after burial, SSD promoted emergence through increased flush magnitude and flush frequency. The promotional effects of SSD on emergence were strongest within 500 d°C following SSD; however, low levels of SSD-induced emergence were detected as late as 3000 d°C following SSD. Accordingly, stale seedbed practices that eliminate weed seedlings should occur within 500 d°C of disturbance, because few seedlings emerge after this time. However, implementation of stale seedbed practices will probably cause slight increases in weed population densities throughout the year. Compared with the common population, local populations exhibited reduced variance in total emergence measured within sites and across SSD treatments, suggesting that C. album adaptation to local pedo-climatic conditions involves increased consistency in SSD-induced emergence.