Agricultural equipment can disperse weed seeds over large distances. Efforts to minimize or prevent equipment-mediated dispersal should be a key component in any integrated weed management plan. Several experiments were initiated in commercial wild blueberry fields to examine the potential impact of harvesting equipment on weed seed dispersal within and between blueberry fields. Seed loads were examined on harvesting equipment between fields and results suggest that harvesting equipment is a major vector of seed dispersal. Seed loads were 397,000 in 2006 and 194,000 in 2007. Of all seeds located on the harvester, 66 to 79% were located on the belts or affiliated components. In 2006, a second experiment was established to examine within-field seed dispersal. A sampling grid was established over multiple distinct poverty oatgrass patches with seed heads at 44% of all sampling points. Following harvest, seeds were located at 67% of all sampling points. In 2006 and 2007, short-distance secondary dispersal of poverty oatgrass by harvesting equipment was measured. The relationship between distance from patch perimeter and seeds per unit area on the side approached by harvesting equipment and the far side of the patch was adequately modeled with an exponential decay model. Secondary dispersal within blueberry fields by harvesting equipment is inevitable. Dispersal may be reduced by avoiding dense weed patches, or altering harvest timing. Periodic cleaning of harvesting equipment between fields will help prevent the spread of weed seed.
Nomenclature: Poverty oatgrass, Danthonia spicata (L.) Beauv. ex Roemer & J. A. Schultes DANSP; wild blueberry, Vaccinium angustifolium Ait. and Vaccinium myrtilloides Michx.