Variation in postdispersal weed seed predation in a crop field
Postdispersal weed seed predation by animals during the summer fallow period may lead to a reduction in the number of weeds that grow in the following winter cropping season. In this study, we investigated the patterns of weed seed removal, the influence of crop residue cover on seed removal, the types of granivores present and their seed preferences in a 16-ha postharvest cropping field in Western Australia during the summer months over 2 yr. Seed removal from caches was extremely variable (from 0 to 100%). Removal rates were generally highest along the edges of the field near bordering vegetation and lowest in the center of the field and within the bordering vegetation. However, there were many deviations from this general pattern. There was no change in rates of predation with different levels of residue cover. Ants or other small invertebrates were found to remove the most seeds. However, seed removal by other animals, such as rodents, was also evident. Annual ryegrass seeds were preferred over wild oat seeds, followed by wild radish pod segments. Seed harvesting was lowest in late January, peaked in February, and decreased in March. Results from this study suggest seed harvesters could reduce the number of surface seeds in the field, reducing the weed seed bank. Management options that increase the activity of the seed harvesters may lead to less variability in seed predation and could, therefore, be incorporated into an integrated weed management program.
Spafford Jacob, H., Minkey, D.M., Gallagher, R.S. and Borger, C.P. (2006) Variation in postdispersal weed seed predation in a crop field. Weed Science 54, 148-155.