Weekly defoliation controls, but does not kill broad‐leaved dock (Rumex obtusifolius)

F.K. van Evert*, M. Cockburn, J.E. Beniers, R. Latsch

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Broad‐leaved dock (Rumex obtusifolius L.) is a troublesome weed that predominantly grows in pastures and grassland. We hypothesised that frequent defoliation of Rumex will, over time, result in a reduction in root weight and leaf area, to the point where the impact on grass production is negligible. In order to investigate this hypothesis, we conducted three experiments. The objective of the first experiment was to perform a preliminary test of the hypothesis, using potted plants growing in the controlled conditions of a glasshouse. This experiment showed a rapid decline in leaf growth in plants that were defoliated weekly. The objective of the second experiment was to test the hypothesis in realistic outdoor conditions while still being able to collect detailed plant growth information. This experiment confirmed the findings of the glasshouse experiment and provided evidence that leaf growth ceased as a result of a dwindling supply of carbohydrate reserves in the root. Defoliated plants did not exhibit increased mortality. Finally, the objective of the third experiment was to test the hypothesis in a commercial pasture where normal field operations, specifically grass harvesting (three times) and slurry injection (twice), were performed. The results of this experiment were consistent with the results of the other two experiments. We conclude that weekly defoliation, maintained for three or more months, is an effective method to control (reduce the impact on grass production), but not kill, R. obtusifolius in pasture.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-170
Number of pages10
JournalWeed Research
Issue number2
Early online date22 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020


  • below-ground biomass
  • compensation point
  • mechanical weed control
  • robot


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