Review of weed control options and future opportunities for UK crops

AHDB BBRO Review 2019 Research Review No. CP 182 / 1807258 - Review of weed control options and future opportunities for UK crops

Authors: Sarah K. Cook, Laura R. Davies, Frances Pickering, Lynn V. Tatnell, Angela Huckle, Sonia Newman, Chloe Whiteside, Charlotte White, David Talbot, Helen Holmes (ADAS), Patricia E. Turnbull (Independent agronomist), Denis C. Buckley (Independent agronomist), Jim Scrimshaw (PGRO).


In the UK, growers rely almost entirely on synthetic herbicides to control weeds cost effectively. However, the use of these products is coming under increasing pressure from legislation, climate change and market requirements such as reduced pesticide inputs and maximum residue levels. This, combined with herbicide resistance is having a significant impact on arable and horticultural sectors. This report is a comprehensive literature review of weed control options on a national and international level that could benefit UK crop production in horticultural crops, cereals and oilseeds, sugar beet, potatoes, grassland, legumes and maize. The different techniques available for weed control are reviewed in Section 3. The efficacy of these techniques in different crops is then discussed in Section 4 and finally, Section 5 highlights the weaknesses in the biology of key weed species, as this can then be exploited for weed control. For effective weed control a knowledge of the weed lifecycle is essential. The lifecycle is simply the seasonal pattern of growth and reproduction. For the purpose of this review the lifecycle has been split into five sections. Each weed control technique described in the review will be effective in controlling weeds at one or more sections of the lifecycle and effective weed control generally involves the use of more than one method. This is the heart of integrated weed (pest) management (IWM/IPM).

The following strategies are discussed: 

  1.  Prevent Seed Return
  2. Deplete seedbank
  3. Kill weed seedlings
  4. Stop seed set
  5. On-farm hygiene
  6. Increased access to and use of current knowledge
  7. Link practical knowledge better with fundamental research
  8. Maximise herbicide avaiability
  9. Fund resources strategically for Integrated Weed Management
  10. Understand selectivity between crops & weeds




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