Biological control of weeds in European crops: recent achievements and future work

H. Müllerer-Schärer, M.P. Greaves

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    Approaches to the biological control of weeds in arable crops and integration of biological weed control with other methods of weed management are broadly discussed. Various types of integrative approaches to biological control of weeds in crops have been studied within the framework of a concerted European Research Programme (COST-816). During the period 1994-99, some 25 institutions from 16 countries have concentrated on five target weed complexes. Some major scientific achievements of COST-816 are: (i) combination of the pathogen Ascochyta caulina with an isolated phytotoxin produced by this fungus to control Chenopodium album in maize and sugar beet; (ii) the elaboration and preliminary field application of a system management approach using the weed:pathogen system Senecio vulgaris:Puccinia lagenophorae to reduce the competitiveness of the weed by inducing and stimulating a disease epidemic; (iii) combination of underseeded green cover with the application of spores of Stagonospora convolvuli to control Convolvulus species in maize; (iv) assessment of the response of different provenances of Amaranthus spp. to infection by Alternaria alternata and Trematophoma lignicola, the development of formulation and delivery techniques and a field survey of native insect species to control Amaranthus spp. in sugar beet and maize; (v) isolation of strains of different Fusarium spp. that infect all the economically important Orobanche spp. and development of novel, storable formulations using mycelia from liquid culture. Although no practical control has yet been reached for any of the five target weeds, potential solutions have been clearly identified. Two major routes may be followed in future work. The first is a technological approach focusing on a single, highly destructive disease cycle of the control agent and optimizing the efficacy and specificity of the agent. The second is an ecological approach based on a better understanding of the interactions among the crop, the weed, the natural antagonist and the environment, which must be managed in order to maximize the spread and impact of an indigenous antagonist on the weed.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)83-98
    JournalWeed Research
    Publication statusPublished - 2000


    • Biological weed control
    • Crop weeds
    • Integrated weed management


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