Because herbicide and cultivation efficacy is generally density independent, seedling density following these weed control practices will be proportional to the density of germinable seeds in the seedbank. Most farmers would therefore benefit from management practices that reduce seed inputs, increase seed losses, and reduce the probability that remaining seeds establish. Germination, predation, and decay are the primary sources of loss to the seedbank that may respond to management. Farmers have long prepared stale seedbeds in which shallow soil disturbance encourages germination losses. Postdispersal seed predation by vertebrate and invertebrate granivores may cause high rates of seed mortality in a wide range of cropping systems, but seed dispersal asynchronous with predator activity, and seed burial, may limit the overall effect on the seedbank. Although seeds would seem to be an ideal carbon source for soil microorganisms, limited evidence from a study of wild oat suggests that decay may be less responsive to management than germination, and likely predation. A final management objective, supporting a program that aims to reduce seedbank inputs and increase losses, is to reduce the size of the effective seedbank through manipulation of residues and disturbance to reduce the probability of establishment. Incorporation of green manures generally reduces weed establishment, whereas larger-seeded or transplanted crops may better tolerate the residue-mediated changes in the chemical, biological, and physical properties of the soil surface environment. Evidence from no-till systems further support the hypothesis that changes in soil surface conditions may regulate the abundance of “safe sites” for weed establishment, thereby modulating the size of the effective seedbank.
Nomenclature: Wild oat, Avena fatua L. AVEFA.