Livestock in diverse cropping systems improve weed management and sustain yields whilst reducing inputs

Chloe MacLaren, Jonathan Storkey, Johann Strauss, Pieter Swanepoel, Katharina Dehnen-Schmutz

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    46 Citations (Scopus)
    48 Downloads (Pure)


    Intensive cropping systems select for a low diversity of weeds tolerant of chemical control, leading to persistent weed-crop competition and declining biodiversity. Crop rotation can mitigate this by introducing variable filters on the weed community through increasing management diversity. In this study, we investigate the effect of integrating livestock into no-till crop rotations to complement chemical weed control. We analysed 12 years of weed seedbank data from a trial of eight rotation systems with different crop sequence diversities, of which four included grazed forage phases. Linear mixed models and ordination were used to assess how weed abundance, diversity, and community composition responded to management filters, defined in terms of levels of disturbance strength and diversity (grazing and herbicides), and resource availability and diversity (inorganic fertilizers, legumes, and manure). Grazed rotation systems had less herbicide applied than ungrazed rotation systems, and had the lowest weed abundance and highest weed diversity. Herbicides and grazing apply contrasting selection pressures on weeds, and this combination was more effective in reducing weed pressure than increasing herbicide quantity or mode-of-action diversity. Lower resource availability and higher nitrogen source diversity in grazed systems may have further reduced weed abundance and promoted diversity. Crop sequence diversity also reduced weed abundance and promoted weed diversity, indicating that variable crop-weed interactions can enhance weed management. In addition, yields in the main cash crop (wheat) were highest where crop diversity was highest, regardless of whether the system contained grazed phases. Synthesis and applications. Diverse rotation systems produced high yields, and the inclusion of grazed forage phases maintained these yields at lower applications of herbicides and fertilizers: integrated livestock can therefore improve the sustainability of no-till systems. The role of grazing as a filter imposing a contrasting selection pressure to other weed control options could be further explored to improve weed management in different farming systems.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)144-156
    Number of pages13
    JournalJournal of Applied Ecology
    Issue number1
    Early online date3 Aug 2018
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019

    Bibliographical note

    This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: MacLaren, C, Storkey, J, Strauss, J, Swanepoel, P & Dehnen-Schmutz, K 2018, 'Livestock in diverse cropping systems improve weed management and sustain yields whilst reducing
    inputs' Journal of Applied Ecology, vol 56, pp. 144-156, which has been published in final form at
    This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.

    Copyright © and Moral Rights are retained by the author(s) and/ or other copyright owners. A copy can be downloaded for personal non-commercial research or study, without prior permission or charge. This item cannot be reproduced or quoted extensively from without first obtaining permission in writing from the copyright holder(s). The content must not be changed in any way or sold commercially in any format or medium without the formal permission of the copyright holders.


    • crop diversity
    • crop rotation
    • forage legumes
    • grazing
    • integrated crop-livestock systems
    • selection pressure
    • weed management

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Ecology


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