Agricultural intensification and climate change have increased the threat from weeds

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Storkey, J., Mead, A., Addy, J. and Macdonald, A. J. 2021. Agricultural intensification and climate change have increased the threat from weeds. Global Change Biology. 118 (2), p. e2002548117.

AuthorsStorkey, J., Mead, A., Addy, J. and Macdonald, A. J.

Weeds represent a significant threat to crop yields and global food security. We analysed data on weed competition from the world's longest running agricultural experiment
to ask whether potential yield losses from weeds have increased in response to management and environmental change since the advent of the Green Revolution in the 1960s. On plots where inorganic nitrogen fertiliser has been applied, potential yield losses from weeds have consistently increased since 1969. This was explained by a warming climate, measured as air temperature averaged over the growing season for the weeds, and a shift towards shorter crop cultivars. Weeds also reduced yield proportionally more on plots with higher rates of nitrogen which had higher yields when weeds were controlled; the relative benefit of herbicides was, therefore, proportional to potential crop yield. Reducing yield losses from weed competition is increasingly challenging because of the evolution of herbicide resistance. Our results demonstrate that weeds now represent a greater inherent threat to crop production than before the advent of herbicides and integrated, sustainable solutions to weed management are urgently needed to protect the high yield potential of modern crop genotypes.

KeywordsClimate change; Crop yield; Herbicides; Integrated weed management; Weed competition
Year of Publication2021
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Journal citation118 (2), p. e2002548117
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Open accessPublished as ‘gold’ (paid) open access
FunderBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
European Union
Funder project or codeS2N - Soil to Nutrition - Work package 2 (WP2) - Adaptive management systems for improved efficiency and nutritional quality
The Rothamsted Long Term Experiments [2017-2022]
Publisher's version
Accepted author manuscript
Supplemental file
Supplemental file
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online23 Mar 2021
Publication process dates
Accepted25 Feb 2021

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