Assessing non-chemical weeding strategies through mechanistic modelling of blackgrass (Alopecurus myosuroides Huds.) dynamics

N. Colbach, D.A.G. Kurstjens, N.M. Munier-Jolain, A. Dalbiès, T. Doré

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18 Citations (Scopus)


Because of environmental and health safety issues, it is necessary to develop strategies that do not rely on herbicides to manage weeds. Introducing temporary grassland into annual crop rotations and mechanical weeding are the two main features that are frequently used in integrated and organic cropping systems for this purpose. To evaluate the contribution of these two factors in interaction with other cropping system components and environmental conditions, the present study updated an existing biophysical model (i.e. AlomySys) that quantifies the effects of cropping system on weed dynamics. Based on previous experiments, new sub-models were built to describe the effects on plant survival and growth reduction of mechanical weeding resulting from weed seedling uprooting and covering by soil, and those of grassland mowing resulting from tiller destruction. Additional modifications described the effect of the multi-year crop canopy of grassland on weed survival, growth, development and seed return to the soil. The improved model was used to evaluate the weed dynamics over 27 years in the conventional herbicide-based cropping system most frequently observed in farm surveys (i.e. oilseed rape/winter wheat/winter barley rotation with superficial tillage) and then to test prospective non-chemical scenarios. Preliminary simulations tested a large range of mechanical weeding and mowing strategies, varying operation frequencies, dates and, in the case of mechanical weeding, characteristics (i.e. tool, working depth, tractor speed). For mechanical weeding soon after sowing, harrowing was better than hoeing for controlling weed seed production. The later the operation, the more efficient the hoeing and the less efficient the harrowing. Tractor speed had little influence. Increasing tilling depth increased plant mortality but increased weed seed production because of additional seed germination triggering by the weeding tool. Decreasing the interrow width for hoeing was nefarious for weed control. The best combinations were triple hoeing in oilseed rape and sextuple harrowing in cereals. The best mowing strategy was mowing thrice, every 4–6 weeks, starting in mid-May. The best individual options were combined, simulated over 27 years and compared to the herbicide-based reference system. If herbicide applications were replaced solely by mechanical weeding, blackgrass infestation could not be satisfactorily controlled. If a three-year lucerne was introduced into the rotation, weed infestations were divided by ten. Replacing chisel by mouldboard ploughing before winter wheat reduced weed infestations at short, medium and long term to a level comparable to the herbicide-based reference system.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-218
JournalEuropean Journal of Agronomy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • crop-rotation
  • population-dynamics
  • seed characteristics
  • nitrogen balances
  • generic model
  • soil climate
  • systems
  • management
  • tillage
  • simulation


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