One year's seeding: a seedbank approach to sustainable weed management

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2004: $149,903.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Coordinator:
Karen Renner
Michigan State University

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: barley, corn, oats, rye, soybeans, wheat, grass (misc. perennial), hay


  • Animal Production: feed/forage
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning
  • Pest Management: competition, cultural control, field monitoring/scouting, integrated pest management, physical control, prevention, weed ecology
  • Production Systems: holistic management

    Proposal abstract:

    Abstract: When farmers shift from conventional to sustainable weed management practices, they commonly stay focused on killing weed seedlings, substituting steel for herbicides. Recent research shows that such an approach is basically closing the barn door after the horses are out: seedlings don't control weed population growth, seeds do. Seedbanks help weed populations avoid harsh environments, with plenty of seeds ready to go when conditions are right. Large seedbanks don't just insure seven year's weeding; they also can produce a choking mat of new growth that hampers control tactics targeted at seedlings. The success of sustainable weed management efforts depends upon shrinking weed seedbanks by reducing weed seed production and survival. To make weed seedbank management practical for farmers, there's a real need for 1) research on how cropping systems affect weed seed production and survival, and 2) user-friendly deicison aids to help farmers manage their weed seedbanks. We propose to approach this problem from multiple perspectives by using a working group of farmers, extension agents and researchers to develop a decision support manual for sustainable management of weed seedbanks and design on-farm experiments to improve seedbank management options. The materials produced by the working group will be introduced to over 400 farmers and extension agents through training workshops to field-test the manual. This project will advance the NCR SARE goals of farm profitability and environmental protection by providing over 400 farmers with tools to shift away from exclusive focus on chemical and physical control of weed seedlings and instead direct management efforts at all weed life stages with the goal of maintaining weed seedbanks at low levels through sustainable practices.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Project Outcomes:
    This project addresses the lack of practical information on sustainable weed management by engaging farmers and land-grant professionals in a continuous improvement process. A decision support manual for ecological weed management (Integrated Weed Management: One year's seeding... E-2931 Michigan State University Extension bulletin)will be presented to farmers,farmers will be asked to use and evaluate the manual, and the manual will be revised according to farmer feedback.

    In the short-term, over 400 producers and extension agents will learn to use a practical manual for sustainable weed seedbank management at workshops in MI, IN, OH, IA, MN, and WI. The manual will help farmers manage the whole weed life cycle, rather than focus on the seedling stage only.

    In the intermediate-term, up to 70 producer-evaluators (PE's) in five states will use the manual to help them manage weeds on their farms and record impacts on their operations. Over 50% of the PE's will diversify their approach to weed management as a result of using the manual. Eight on-farm trials will explore new management options for reducing weed seedbanks through sustainable practices. At least 30 PE's will evaluate on-farm trials and share results of their own field-tests. Feedback from producer workshops and PE's who use the manual on their own farms, in addition to results of on-farm trials, will be used to improve the first edition of the Integrated Weed Management Guide.

    In the long term, this project will give farmers practical alternatives to over-relieance on herbicide resistant crops and chemically intensive post emergence weed control. The rapid loss of hard-won farmer knowledge of integrated weed management will be slowed, or even reversed, as farmers are engaged in the process of making practical knowledge available for their neighbors and for future farmers. Stronger partnerships between farmers and university personnel will be formed, with better correspondence between farmer needs and researcher activities, resulting in a sustainable agriculture that gains its strength from both human relationships and scientific understanding.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.