Effect of herbicide application on weed flora under conservation agriculture in Zimbabwe

Published in Crop Protection 66 1-7, 2014

Muoni, T.; Rusinamhodzi, L.;Rugare, J.T.; Mabasa, S.; Mangosho, E.; Mupangwa, W.; Thierfelder, C.

Increased challenges of weed control in the smallholder farming sector of southern Africa have often resulted in small yields. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of different weed control strategies on weed flora and composition under conservation agriculture (CA) systems in Zimbabwe. This study was conducted at three on-station trial sites namely Domboshawa Training Centre (DTC), University of Zimbabwe farm (UZ farm) and Henderson Research Station (HRS) in a maize–soybean rotation for four seasons from 2009–2010 to 2012–2013 seasons. Hand weeding was done whenever weeds were 10 cm tall or 10 cm in circumference for weeds with a stoloniferous growth habit. Weed identification was done up to the weed species level, and the Shannon–Weiner diversity and evenness index was used to determine the response of weed flora to herbicides. Results showed that there were more weeds in the early years which decreased gradually until the final season. Weed species diversity was not affected by herbicide application and the results indicated that weed species diversity was small in CA systems. Annual weed species constituted a greater proportion of species, and species richness decreased with the duration of the study. Richardia scabra L. and Galinsoga parviflora Cav. were the most common dominant weed species at all sites and in all seasons. Moreover, herbicide application had no effect on the evenness of weeds in the plots but site characteristics had a significant effect on the distribution of weed species (weed species evenness). The results presented in this study suggest that herbicide application facilitates a depletion of weed seed bank/number of weeds over time. Thus, herbicide application in CA has potential to reduce weed density, species richness and species diversity in the long term which may lead to more labour savings and larger yields.

Conservation agriculture, Crop Protection, Herbicide application, Weed density, Weed flora, Weed species diversity

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