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    Weed suppression greatly increased by plant diversity in intensively managed grasslands: A continental- scale experiment

    Connolly, John and Sebastia, M.-Teresa and Kirwan, Laura and Finn, John Anthony and Llurba, Rosa and Suter, Matthias and Collins, Rosemary and Porqueddu, Claudio and Helgadottir, Aslaug and Baadshaug, Ole and Belanger, Gilles and Black, Alistair and Brophy, Caroline and Cop, Jure and Dalmannsdóttir, Sigridur and Delgado, Ignacio and Elgersma, Anjo and Fothergill, Michael and Frankow-Lindberg, Bodil E. and Ghesquière, Anne and Golinski, Piotr and Grieu, Philippe and Gustavsson, Anne-Maj and Hoglind, Mats and Huguenin-Elie, Olivier and Jørgensen, Marit and Kadziuliene, Zydre and Lunnan, Tor and Nykanen-Kurki, Paivi and Ribas, Angela and Taube, Friedhelm and Thumm, Ulrich and de Vliegher, Alex and Luscher, Andreas (2018) Weed suppression greatly increased by plant diversity in intensively managed grasslands: A continental- scale experiment. Journal of Applied Ecology, 55 (2). pp. 852-862. ISSN 0021-8901

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    1. Grassland diversity can support sustainable intensification of grassland production through increased yields, reduced inputs and limited weed invasion. We report the effects of diversity on weed suppression from 3 years of a 31-site continental-scale field experiment. 2. At each site, 15 grassland communities comprising four monocultures and 11 four-species mixtures based on a wide range of species’ proportions were sown at two densities and managed by cutting. Forage species were selected according to two crossed functional traits, “method of nitrogen acquisition” and “pattern of temporal development”. 3. Across sites, years and sown densities, annual weed biomass in mixtures and monocultures was 0.5 and 2.0 t DM ha−1 (7% and 33% of total biomass respectively). Over 95% of mixtures had weed biomass lower than the average of monocultures, and in two- thirds of cases, lower than in the most suppressive monoculture (transgressive suppression). Suppression was significantly transgressive for 58% of site-years. Transgressive suppression by mixtures was maintained across years, independent of site productivity. 4. Based on models, average weed biomass in mixture over the whole experiment was 52% less (95% confidence interval: 30%–75%) than in the most suppressive monoculture. Transgressive suppression of weed biomass was significant at each year across all mixtures and for each mixture. 5. Weed biomass was consistently low across all mixtures and years and was in some cases significantly but not largely different from that in the equiproportional mixture. The average variability (standard deviation) of annual weed biomass within a site was much lower for mixtures (0.42) than for monocultures (1.77). 6. Synthesis and applications . Weed invasion can be diminished through a combination of forage species selected for complementarity and persistence traits in systems designed to reduce reliance on fertiliser nitrogen. In this study, effects of diversity on weed suppression were consistently strong across mixtures varying widely in species’ proportions and over time. The level of weed biomass did not vary greatly across mixtures varying widely in proportions of sown species. These diversity benefits in intensively managed grasslands are relevant for the sustainable intensification of agriculture and, importantly, are achievable through practical farm- scale actions.

    Item Type: Article
    Additional Information: This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. © 2017 The Authors. Journal of Applied Ecology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Ecological Society. Funding information Spanish Ministry of the Environment, Grant/ Award Number: OPS (209/PC08/3-08.2); EU Commission, Grant/Award Number: COST Action 852; Spanish Ministry of the Economy and Competitiveness, Grant/Award Number: CGL2006-13555-C03-01/BOS and CGL2013-49142-C2-1-R; Ministry of the Environment, Grant/Award Number: 209/ PC08/3-08.2; Science Foundation Ireland, Grant/Award Number: 09/RFP/EOB2546; EU FP7, Grant/Award Number: 266018.
    Keywords: agro-ecology; evenness; forage swards; functional diversity; generalised diversity-interactions; legume–grass; nitrogen acquisition; sustainable agriculture; temporal development; transgressive weed suppression;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Science and Engineering > Mathematics and Statistics
    Item ID: 9853
    Identification Number:
    Depositing User: Dr. Caroline Brophy
    Date Deposited: 30 Aug 2018 16:28
    Journal or Publication Title: Journal of Applied Ecology
    Publisher: Wiley
    Refereed: Yes
    Funders: Spanish Ministry of the Environment, Spanish Ministry of the Economy and Competitiveness, Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), European Union FP7
    Use Licence: This item is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike Licence (CC BY-NC-SA). Details of this licence are available here

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