Diversified grain-based cropping systems provide long-term weed control while limiting herbicide use and yield losses

  • Guillaume Adeux
  • Nicolas Munier-Jolain
  • Dominique Meunier
  • Pascal Farcy
  • Stefano Carlesi
  • Paolo Barberi
  • Stéphane CordeauEmail author
Research Article
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Pest control


Integrated weed management encourages long-term planning and targeted use of cultural strategies coherently combined at the cropping system scale. The transition towards such systems is challenged by a belief of lower productivity and higher weed pressure. Here, we hypothesize that diversifying the crop sequence and its associated weed management tools allow long-term agronomic sustainability (low herbicide use, efficient weed control, and high productivity). Four 6-year rotations with different constraints (S2: transition from reduced tillage to no-till, chemical weeding; S3: chemical weeding; S4: typical integrated weed management system; S5: mechanical weeding) were compared to a reference (S1: 3-year rotation, systematic ploughing, chemical weeding) in terms of herbicide use, weed management, and productivity over the 2000–2017 period. Weed density was measured before and after weeding. Crop and weed biomass were sampled at crop flowering. Compared to S1, herbicide use was reduced by 46, 65, and 99% in S3, S4, and S5 respectively. Herbicide use in S2 was maintained at the same level as S1 (− 9%), due to increased weed pressure and dependence to glyphosate for weed control during the fallow period of the no-till phase. Weed biomass was low across all cropping systems (0 to 5 g of dry matter m−2) but weed dynamics were stable over the 17 years in S1 and S4 only. Compared to S1, productivity at the cropping system scale was reduced by 22% in S2 and by 33% in S3. These differences were mainly attributed to a higher proportion of crops with low intrinsic productivity in S2 and S3. Through S4’s multiperformance, we show for the first time that low herbicide use, long-term weed management, and high crop productivity can be reconciled in grain-based cropping systems provided that a diversified crop rotation integrating a diverse suite of tactics (herbicides included) is implemented.


Cropping system Integrated weed management Weed dynamics Crop productivity Sustainable agriculture 



We would like to thank (i) all actual or past members of the INRA Experimental Station in Bretenière, FR for carrying out this experiment with dedication (Phillippe CHAMOY, Vincent FALOYA, Pascal MARGET, Marie-Hélène BERNICOT, Violaine DEYTIEUX, Luc BIJU-DUVAL, Benjamin POUILLY, Alain BERTHIER, Claude SARRASIN, and Loïc DUMONT to only name a few), (ii) all the people who participated in field work over the years (François DUGUE, Florence STRBIK, and Hugues BUSSET in particular), (iii) all the people who provided their support to statistical analysis (Fabrice DESSAINT, Nathalie COLBACH, Benjamin BOLKER, Russell V. LENTH, and Henrik SINGMANN), the handling editor and anonymous referees for their valuable comments on the manuscript, and (v) all the visitors who made this experiment a rewarding and meaningful experience. Guillaume ADEUX was funded by the International PhD Programme in Agrobiodiversity of the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, Pisa, IT and hosted by the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique in Dijon.

Funding information

This study received financial support from INRA, the French Burgundy Region, the French project CoSAC (ANR-15-CE18-0007), the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement, no. 727321 (IWM PRAISE), the French “Investissement d’Avenir” program, and the project ISITE-BFC “Agroecology in BFC” (contract ANR-15-IDEX-03).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© INRA and Springer-Verlag France SAS, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Agroécologie, AgroSup Dijon, INRAUniv Bourgogne Franche-ComtéDijonFrance
  2. 2.Group of Agroecology, Institute of Life SciencesScuola Superiore Sant’AnnaPisaItaly
  3. 3.UE115 Domaine Expérimental d’EpoissesINRADijonFrance

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