Tillage practices affect weeds differently in monoculture vs. crop rotation
Swanepoel, Pieter A.
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Reduced tillage practices are widely considered to be more sustainable than conventional tillage practices, but many producers remain reluctant to reduce tillage due to difficulties controlling weeds. Crop rotation is often put forward as the best means to manage weeds in reduced tillage systems, but uncertainties remain around how different tillage practices and crop rotations interact. Here, we assess the effects of four different tillage practices on weed seedbank density and composition in wheat (Triticum aestivum) monoculture (WWWW), and two different rotations, wheat-medic-wheat-medic (annual medic, Medicago spp.; WMWM), and wheat-canola-wheat-lupin (Brassica napus, Lupinus spp.; WCWL). We use data across a whole four-year rotation period from a long-term experiment replicated at two sites in South Africa's winter rainfall region. The four tillage practices assessed follow a gradient of soil disturbance: conventional tillage (CT, soil inversion through ploughing), minimum tillage (MT, shallow soil loosening), no tillage (NT, direct drilling with tine openers) and zero tillage (ZT, direct drilling with disc openers).