Influence of field margin type on weed species richness and abundance in conventional crop fields


Natural vegetation occurring on farms in field margins, fallow fields, ditch systems and neighboring forests, provides increased biodiversity, structural diversity, habitat for wildlife and beneficial insects, and can act as a protective buffer against agrochemical drift. Nevertheless, farmers frequently view these areas as non-productive and as potential sources of weeds, insect pests and diseases. Weed species richness and abundance were examined in crop fields in 2002-2003 at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems near Goldsboro, NC to determine if crop field weed infestation was associated with field margin management (managed versus unmanaged). Weed species abundance and richness were measured over two growing seasons on four occasions in crop fields along permanent transects that extended from the field edge toward the center of the field. The presence/absence of data for all plant species in the field margin was also recorded. For both margin types, managed and unmanaged, more weeds were found near the field edge than in the center of the field. Weed species richness was slightly higher in cropland bordering managed margins than in cropland along unmanaged margins. Several significant interactions led to an examination of nine dominant weed species in each field margin type and their distribution in crop fields. When all sampling dates were pooled, only 42 (40%) of 105 species identified in the field margins were observed in the crop field. Managed margins had lower species richness than unmanaged field marginsless than half the mean number of species (15 versus 6 species, respectively). Contingency table analysis did not reveal any association between plant species occurring in the margin and those found in the crop field. Furthermore, margin type and weed presence in the field margin were not effective predictors of weed occurrence in the crop field as determined by logistic regression. © 2011 Cambridge University Press.

Document Type





crop edges, farm natural areas, field margin, weed populations

Publication Date


Journal Title

Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems