Strategic tillage in Australian conservation agricultural systems to address soil constraints: How does it impact weed management?

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2-1-2023

Journal Title

Weed Reserach






soil amelioration, soil renovation, strategic tillage, weed control, weed ecology


In the conservation agricultural systems practised in Australia, cultivation is not commonly utilised for the purpose of weed control. However, occasional use of tillage (strategic tillage) is implemented every few years for soil amelioration, to address constraints such as acidity, water repellence or soil compaction. Depending on the tillage method, the soil amelioration process buries or disturbs the topsoil. The act of amelioration also changes the soil physical and chemical properties and affects crop growth. While these strategic tillage practices are not usually applied for weed control, they are likely to have an impact on weed seedbank burial, which will in turn affect seed dormancy and seedbank depletion. Strategic tillage impacts on seed burial and soil characteristics will also affect weed emergence, plant survival, competitive ability of weeds against the crop and efficiency of soil applied preemergent herbicides. If growers understand the impacts of soil amelioration on weed demography, they can more effectively plan management strategies to apply following the strategic tillage practice. Weed seed burial resulting from a full soil inversion is understood, but for many soil tillage implements, more data is needed on the extent of soil mixing, burial of topsoil and the weed seedbank, physical control of existing weeds and stimulation of emergence following the tillage event. Within the agronomic system, there is no research on optimal timing for a tillage event within the year. There are multiple studies to indicate that strategic tillage can reduce weed density, but in most studies, the weed density increases in subsequent years. This indicates that more research is required on the interaction of amelioration and weed ecology, and optimal weed management strategies following a strategic tillage event to maintain weeds at low densities. However, this review also highlights that, where the impacts of soil amelioration are understood, existing data on weed ecology can be applied to potentially determine impacts of amelioration on weed growth.