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Adaptability of Arable Weeds

Scientists involved:

M. Sc. Theresa Rühl, Dr. Tobias Donath, Prof. Dr. Dr. Annette Otte

Project period: 2013 - 2015

Keywords: arable weeds, plasticity, global warming, land use






The Red List of endangered plant species of Germany identifies arable weeds as the most endangered species group. Modern agriculture and intensive land use management with the application of herbicides and fertilisers, enhanced seed treatments, simplified crop rotation and abandonment of marginal arable sites are the main causes for the continuous decline of arable weeds.

Conservation measures like ex-situ propagation in botanical gardens and reserves cultivated according to traditional agriculture have only local impact. Accordingly, the establishment of a nationwide network of conservation fields for arable weeds gives these species only punctual relief. In contrast, nature conservation programs at the level of federal states aiming at the establishment of field margins excluded from fertilisation and application of herbicides were quite successful in the re-establishment of plant communities typical to arable fields. Currently, these programs loose support by farmers and agriculture administration and field margins with typical arable weeds are replaced by flower stripes. However, the establishment of flower stripes focuses not on the conservation of native arable weeds but on the provision of nourishment and shelter to insects and small game. Since these flower stripes comprehend mostly competitive, ruderal and in many cases non-native species, they leave little space for the establishment and regeneration of native arable weeds. 

Changes in human land use are always accompanied by the adaption of vegetation. In central Europe analogue adaption processes are induced by global change. Therefore the current project assesses the plasticity and adaptability of the arable weeds in the face of land use and climate change. Educed from these results, we will develop adapted conservation and restoration strategies to preserve arable weeds at the landscape level.

Funding: Graduate scholarship of the Justus Liebig University, Giessen