, Volume 163, Issue 3, pp 355–366 | Cite as

Selection of cereals for weed suppression in organic agriculture: a method based on cultivar sensitivity to weed growth

  • Stephen HoadEmail author
  • Cairistiona Topp
  • Ken Davies


Cereal cultivars conferring a high degree of crop competitive ability, especially against aggressive weeds, are highly beneficial in organic farming as well as other farming systems that aim to limit the use of herbicides. In this study, thirteen winter wheat cultivars, plus one spring wheat and one winter oat were assessed for their competitive ability at key growth stages, across three seasons. The natural population of weed species was allowed develop without agronomic intervention. Weed suppression ability for each cultivar (S var) was calculated as the difference between weed growth in plots for each cultivar and the maximal weed growth (W max) from adjacent uncropped areas. The sensitivity of S var in response to changes in weed growth (S var W ) was derived from the linear regression coefficient of S var plotted against W max. There was significant variation in S var between cultivars and strong evidence for cultivars to vary in S var W . Amongst groups of cultivars with similar levels of S var some could be defined as being of higher or lower sensitivity to changes in weed growth. Some cultivars also had relatively good S var at high levels of weed growth. The use of both weed suppression ability and sensitivity across different levels of weed growth or weed populations has considerable potential for selecting new cultivars suitable for organic agriculture. Ideally new cultivars will be selected on the basis of high S var and/or low S var W . This analysis provides the means to measure sensitivity of cultivar performance across a range of favourable and unfavourable conditions.


Weed suppression Cereal cultivars Winter wheat Variety selection Organic agriculture 



The authors are grateful for funding from the EU and the Scottish Government and would like to acknowledge the support of our research partners from Bonn, Madrid and Warsaw in the EU funded project on ‘Strategies of Weed Control in Organic Farming (WECOF)’. The authors would also like to acknowledge the support of colleagues in the COST Action 860 on ‘Sustainable low-input cereal production: required variety characteristics and crop diversity’.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Crop and Soil Systems Research GroupScottish Agricultural CollegeEdinburghUK
  2. 2.Land Economy and Environment Research GroupScottish Agricultural CollegeEdinburghUK
  3. 3.Agronomy Select ServicesScottish Agricultural CollegePenicuikUK

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