Production systems based on reduced-tillage practices account for over 60% of the cropped land on the Canadian Prairies. Concerns have been expressed regarding potential shifts in weed communities as a result of changing tillage practices. Study objectives were to (1) determine the feasibility of combining and analyzing weed abundance data from 10 medium- to long-term studies on the Canadian Prairies that compared conventional-, reduced-, and zero-tillage systems, (2) identify species that are associated with specific tillage systems, and (3) place species into plant response groups according to the similarity of their tillage system response. Conventional-tillage systems were defined as including both a fall and spring sweep-plow operation before seeding spring crops, whereas reduced tillage consisted of only one sweep-plow operation shortly before seeding. Crops within zero-tillage systems were planted directly into the previous crop's stubble. The association between weed species and tillage systems was investigated using indicator species analysis. Species were assigned to tillage response groups on the basis of the results of the analysis and the expertise of the project scientists. Perennial species such as Canada thistle and perennial sowthistle were associated with reduced- and zero-tillage systems, but annual species were associated with a range of tillage systems. Field pennycress was placed in the conventional-tillage response group, Russian thistle in the zero-tillage group, and wild buckwheat and common lambsquarters were equally abundant in all tillage systems. The goal of classifying weed species based on common functional traits in relation to responses to tillage systems was not realized, in part, because the required information on species biology and ecology was either unavailable or not applicable to local conditions.
Nomenclature: Canada thistle, Cirsium arvense (L.) Scop. CIRAR; common lambsquarters, Chenopodium album L. CHEAL; field pennycress, Thlaspi arvense L. THLAR; perennial sowthistle, Sonchus arvensis L. SONAR; Russian thistle, Salsola iberica Sennen & Pau SASKR; wild buckwheat, Polygonum convolvulus L. POLCO.