Field margin weeds may contribute to the invasion and persistence of weeds in arable fields. Experimental studies of this hypothesis, however, have been inconclusive. We examined the role of field margin weed populations with a spatially explicit simulation model of Canada thistle population dynamics. We measured the contribution of field margin populations to weed pressure in the field across a wide range of parameter values and compared the weed control value of efforts applied to the field margin to that of similar efforts applied to the field. Under most combinations of parameter values, field margin weeds contributed little to weed pressure in the field, suggesting that controlling field margin weeds may often be of little value. Two conditions appeared to be necessary for field margin weeds to influence weed population dynamics within the field: the presence of unoccupied weed habitat, which increased the importance of dispersal to population growth, and high dispersal rates of field margin weeds relative to field weeds, which increased the relative contribution of field margin weeds to dispersal.
Nomenclature: Canada thistle, Cirsium arvense (L.) Scop. CIRAR.