Weed Functional Diversity as Affected by Agroecological Service Crops and No-Till in a Mediterranean Organic Vegetable System

Plants (Basel). 2020 May 28;9(6):689. doi: 10.3390/plants9060689.


This paper explores the effect of agroecological service crops (ASCs), i.e., crops included in the crop rotation for their ecosystem services, terminated with an in-line tillage roller crimper (ILRC) on weed community composition and their functional traits in comparison to a tilled control without ASC. A two-year study was performed in a long-term experiment with vegetables under organic management. Four different cereal crops were introduced as ASCs. Weed abundance and richness and the functional traits were assessed at three different stages, i.e., before and after ASC termination and before harvest of the following crop, melon. All the ASCs showed strong weed suppression, with few differences between the cereals tested. Weed communities with ASCs had later flowering onset and wider flowering span compared to the control, which positively affects weed dispersal and attraction of beneficial insects. However, weed communities with ASCs had higher values for traits related to competition (specific leaf area, seed weight and more perennials). A trade-off between weed suppression and selection of more competitive weed communities by the introduction of ASCs managed with the ILRC should be evaluated in the long-run. The use of the ILRC alternating with other soil management practices seems the more effective strategy to benefit from the minimal soil tillage while avoiding the selection of disservice-related traits in the weed community.

Keywords: agroecology; community composition; ecological weed management; mulch; weed biodiversity.