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Crop Protection 66 (2014) 1e7

Contents lists available at ScienceDirect

Crop Protection
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/cropro

Effect of herbicide application on weed ora under conservation


agriculture in Zimbabwe
Tarirai Muoni a, *, Leonard Rusinamhodzi b, Joyful T. Rugare a, Stanford Mabasa a,
Eunice Mangosho c, Walter Mupangwa b, Christian Thierfelder b
a
b
c

University of Zimbabwe, P.O. Box MP 167, Mount Pleasant, Harare, Zimbabwe


CIMMYT, P.O. Box MP 163, Mount Pleasant, Harare, Zimbabwe
Ministry of Agriculture, Weed Research Team, Henderson Research Institute, Private Bag 2004, Mazowe, Zimbabwe

a r t i c l e i n f o

a b s t r a c t

Article history:
Received 16 December 2013
Received in revised form
5 August 2014
Accepted 12 August 2014
Available online

Increased challenges of weed control in the smallholder farming sector of southern Africa have often
resulted in small yields. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of different weed control
strategies on weed ora and composition under conservation agriculture (CA) systems in Zimbabwe. This
study was conducted at three on-station trial sites namely Domboshawa Training Centre (DTC), University of Zimbabwe farm (UZ farm) and Henderson Research Station (HRS) in a maizeesoybean rotation
for four seasons from 2009e2010 to 2012e2013 seasons. Hand weeding was done whenever weeds were
10 cm tall or 10 cm in circumference for weeds with a stoloniferous growth habit. Weed identication
was done up to the weed species level, and the ShannoneWeiner diversity and evenness index was used
to determine the response of weed ora to herbicides. Results showed that there were more weeds in the
early years which decreased gradually until the nal season. Weed species diversity was not affected by
herbicide application and the results indicated that weed species diversity was small in CA systems.
Annual weed species constituted a greater proportion of species, and species richness decreased with the
duration of the study. Richardia scabra L. and Galinsoga parviora Cav. were the most common dominant
weed species at all sites and in all seasons. Moreover, herbicide application had no effect on the evenness
of weeds in the plots but site characteristics had a signicant effect on the distribution of weed species
(weed species evenness). The results presented in this study suggest that herbicide application facilitates
a depletion of weed seed bank/number of weeds over time. Thus, herbicide application in CA has potential to reduce weed density, species richness and species diversity in the long term which may lead to
more labour savings and larger yields.
2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords:
Conservation agriculture
Weed species diversity
Weed density
Herbicide application
Weed ora

1. Introduction
Weed management challenges in the smallholder farming
sector have been reported as one of the major causes of low grain
yields in southern Africa. Maize grain yield from smallholder farms
averages less than 1 t ha1 and this is often not sufcient to support
an average farming family (USAID/Zim-AIED, 2013). Weeds are
more efcient in competing with crops for nutrients, water and
space, and harbour pest and diseases that all have negative effects
on yields obtained at the end of the season (Shrestha et al., 2002).
Weed management by smallholder farmers has been practised
using the mouldboard plough, for families with access to draft

* Corresponding author. Tel.: 263 774311136.


E-mail address: tarirai.muoni@gmail.com (T. Muoni).
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cropro.2014.08.008
0261-2194/ 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

power, and through hand hoes by resource poor farmers (Muoni


et al., 2013). Most of the smallholders in Zimbabwe use conventional tillage practices for eld preparations and for weed control
(Vogel, 1994). Although manual weeding using hand hoes is a
common practice within smallholder farming, it is labour intensive
and is often delayed leading to reduced crop yields (Mashingaidze
et al., 2012). Conventional tillage practices often increase soil
erosion rates leading to reduced soil quality such as poor soil
porosity, nutrient loss and low organic matter content (e.g.
Thierfelder and Wall, 2012). Poor soil nutrient statuses in combination with poor weed management practices often contribute to
decreased yields. To alleviate this challenge, researchers have
suggested a more sustainable method of farming, commonly
referred to as Conservation Agriculture.
Conservation Agriculture (CA) is dened as a farming system
based on three interlinked principles which are (a) maintenance of

T. Muoni et al. / Crop Protection 66 (2014) 1e7

a permanent soil cover through crop residues, (b) diverse crop rotations and (c) minimum soil disturbance (FAO, 2010). Conservation
agriculture has potential to make more efcient use of natural resources through integrated management of soil, water and biological resources combined with use of external inputs (FAO, 2010).
The use of crop residues helps retaining soil moisture which reduces the negative effects of mid-season dry spells common in
southern Africa (Thierfelder and Wall, 2010). Residues can suppress
weeds during the growing season if applied in sufcient quantity.
Minimum soil disturbance and retention of crop residues reduce
the rate of soil loss and increase soil biological activities (e.g. Dube
et al., 2012). However, the complexity of weed control in CA systems increases due to an increase in perennial weed species (Gan
et al., 2008). This has resulted in a general recommendation for
increased use of herbicides in the early years of CA adoption (Wall,
2007).
Herbicides have been reported to be effective and economically
feasible in the smallholder farming sector where CA is being
practised (Muoni et al., 2013). Herbicides have the ability to reduce
substantially the weeding pressure but there are potential toxic
side effects for humans and the environment (Kolpin et al., 1998).
Among the recommended herbicides are glyphosate [N-(phosphonomethyl) glycine], atrazine [2-chloro-4-(ethylamino)-6-(isopropylamino)-s-triazine] and metolachlor (2-chloro-N-(2-ethyl-6methylphenyl)-N-2-methoxyl-1-methylethyl) that have different
modes of action. Glyphosate is a non-selective systemic herbicide
capable to control weeds that have underground rhizomes. Atrazine and metolachlor are selective herbicides that are applied
before emergence of weeds and atrazine can also be applied after
emergence of weeds and are both effective on broadleaved weeds
and some grasses (Croplife, 2006). Rugare and Mabasa (2013) reported that the use of herbicides in CA reduced the variable cost of
weed control by at least 21.8% and increased the marginal rate of
returns by 306% compared to hand hoe weeding. Although many
advantages of using herbicides have been documented, there is
little information available on the longer term response of weed
species to herbicide weed control strategies in CA systems under
Zimbabwean conditions. Increasing the intensity of hand hoe
weeding reduces the total weed density and the number of weed
species that are observed in the plots (Mashingaidze et al., 2012).
Crop rotations also facilitate weed suppression and there may be a
different weed species response due to different rotational crops.
Several tools can be used to investigate weed species diversity and
evenness in a community such as the ShannoneWeiner index (H
index for species diversity and E index for species evenness) (Grice
et al., 2009). The ShannoneWeiner indices combine species richness (i.e. the number of weed species per area) and species equitability (i.e. how even is the number of species) (Nolan and
Callahan, 2006). The hypothesis of this study was that herbicide
application in combination with no-till, mulching and crop rotation
will decimate the weed species and their density over time. Thus
the objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of herbicide
strategies on weed ora under conservation agriculture (CA) systems in Zimbabwe.
2. Materials and methods
2.1. Site description
The experiments were established at three research locations
namely Domboshawa Training Centre (DTC), Henderson Research
Station (HRS) and University of Zimbabwe farm (UZ farm). All the
three sites are located in natural region II of Zimbabwe and rainfall
pattern is unimodal averaging 700e1000 mm per growing season.
Rainfall starts in November and ends in April, and mid-summer

temperature ranges from 15.5  C to 25.0  C. Domboshawa


0
0
Training Centre (17 37 S, 3110 E and 1560 m above sea level
(m.a.s.l)) is located on highly variable soils that are classied as
moderately deep Luvisols and Arenosols, and these soils have
approximately 5% clay content. Henderson Research Station
0
0
(17 34 S, 30 54 E and 1136 m.a.s.l) soils are classied as Arenosols
according to FAO classication originating from granite rocks
(Nyamapfene, 1991). The soils at HRS have a high sandy content
(>83%) and are generally low in soil organic matter content
0
(Thierfelder and Wall, 2012). University of Zimbabwe farm (17 80 S,
0

31 50 E and 1503 m.a.s.l) is located on clay soils that have high soil
organic matter and are classied as Chromic Luvisols under FAO
classication (Nyamapfene, 1991).
2.2. Experimental design
The experiment commenced in the 2009e2010 cropping season
at all sites with maize as the test crop. The experiment was laid in a
randomised complete block design (RCBD) with six treatments,
replicated three times at all sites. The treatments were;
i. Hand hoe weeding only.
ii. Paraquat at 0.25 L ha1 a.i (active ingredient) at seeding plus
hand hoe weeding.
iii. Glyphosate at 1.025 L ha1 a.i at seeding plus hand hoe
weeding.
iv. Atrazine at 1.80 kg ha1 a.i at seeding plus hand hoe
weeding.
v. Glyphosate (1.025 L ha1 a.i) atrazine (1.80 kg ha1 a.i) at
seeding plus hand hoe weeding.
vi. Glyphosate (1.025 L ha1 a.i) atrazine (1.80 kg ha1
a.i) metolachlor (0.96 L ha1 a.i) at seeding plus hand hoe
weeding.
The recommended application rates for the different herbicides
were used in this study and treatments with more than one herbicide where tank-mixed and applied at the same time. Manual hoe
weeding was done whenever weeds were 10 cm tall or 10 cm in
length for stoloniferous weeds, in circumference. A maizeesoybean
rotation was deployed through the trial period. In 2009e2010 and
2011e2012, a uniform maize crop, using the maize variety Pristine
601, was seeded, whereas soybean (variety Safari) was grown in the
2010e2011 and 2012e2013 cropping season after the maize phase.
In the maize phase, maize was grown using planting basins at UZ
farm and rip lines at HRS and DTC, and maize harvest residues were
used as ground cover at approximately 2.5 t ha1 in seasons 1, 2 and
4. In the third season, soybean crop harvest residues were retained
and used as ground cover at approximately 1.5 t ha1. During the
maize phase weeding was done up to four times at DTC and HRS in
2009e2010 season only whilst in 2011e2012 season and at UZ farm
weeding was done only three times throughout the growing season. In the soybean phase weeding was done twice only. Maize was
seeded at 0.9 m  0.25 m plant spacing to achieve a target plant
population of 44,444 plants ha1. 150 kg ha1 of Compound D
(11 kg N: 21 kg P2O5: 11 kg K2O ha1) was applied as a basal
dressing at seeding and 150 kg ha1 of ammonium nitrate
(52 kg N ha1) was split applied as top dressing at four and seven
weeks after emergence. In the soybean phase, inoculated soybean
(inoculated with Bradyrhizobia japonicum) was seeded at
0.45 m  0.05 m which translated to a target plant population of
444,444 plants ha1 and no herbicide was applied as initial weed
control measure in soybean. A basal application of 150 kg Compound D (11 kg N: 21 kg P2O5: 11 kg K2O ha1) was applied by
dribbling 90 g in every 10 m row. No top-dressing was applied to
the soybean.

T. Muoni et al. / Crop Protection 66 (2014) 1e7

Fig. 1. Effects of weed control strategies on weed density in four seasons (2009e10, 2010e11, 2011e12 and 2012e13) at Henderson Research Station, Domboshawa Training Centre
and University of Zimbabwe. Bars with different letters mean that the weed control strategies were signicantly different (P < 0.05) for each season.

The ShannoneWeiner evenness index was calculated using the


following formula

2.3. Field measurements


In all plots, measuring 6.0 m  6.3 m, weed counts were done
prior to each weeding by randomly placing a 0.5 m  0.5 m
quadrant four times in each plot at all sites. Weed counts were done
by identifying the weeds in each quadrant then their total in the
four quadrants was summed up for weed density. Weed identication was done at species level using guidelines outlined by Botha
(2001) and, Makanganise and Mabasa (1999). Cyperus esculentus L.
and Cyperus rotundas L. were classied as Cyperus spp due to difculties in identifying them when they were still young. Cynodon
nlemfuensis L. was recorded by counting the number of shoots that
were observed in the quadrants.
2.4. Calculations and statistical analysis
The ShannoneWeiner diversity (H) and evenness (E) indices
were used to assess the species composition in each plot. The
ShannoneWeiner diversity index was calculated using the
following formula:

H N ln N 

n ln n=N

(1)

where H is the measured species diversity through proportional


abundance of species, N is the total population density (m2), n is
the population of each weed species (m2).

E H=ln N

(2)

where E is evenness of weed species and H and N are as explained


earlier.
The ShannoneWeiner diversity index value of zero indicates
that there is only one species available (Nolan and Callahan, 2006).
The larger the value, the higher the diversity of species within the
area. Species evenness ranges from 0 to 1 and values close to 1
show that the species are uniformly distributed in the plots.
All weed density, species diversity, richness and evenness data
was subjected to normality and homogeneity of variance test and
the data was normally distributed. The data was then subjected to
the analysis of variance using Genstat 6th edition to assess the
treatment effects on weed density, species richness, species diversity and species evenness at each site in all seasons. To assess
treatment, crop, sites and season interactions a linear mixed model
in Genstat 6th edition was used. In the model, treatments and sites
were treated as xed factors and season was treated as a random
effect. Season was treated as a random factor because the quality of
the season could not be determined experimentally. Mean separation was done using the least signicant difference (LSD) test at
P  0.05 on all signicant data.

T. Muoni et al. / Crop Protection 66 (2014) 1e7

3. Results
3.1. Effect of different weed control strategies on weed density
Weed control strategies and site characteristics had a strong
inuence (P < 0.001) on the weed density. A strong
crop  treatment interaction (P 0.008) was observed in the linear
mixed model analysis. At DTC, weed density was high in the rst
season and it decreased over the time (Fig. 1). Weed control strategies had a signicant effect (P 0.0001) on weed density in
2009e2010 season. More weeds were observed in 2009e2010
season and manual weeding only had the largest weed density in
that season (706 weeds m2). In the paraquat plus manual weeding
treatment, most weeds were found in treatments with herbicides
but the weed density in 2012e2013 decreased by at least 77% of the
weed density recorded in the 2009e10 season. In the 2010e2011
season, weed control strategies had no signicant effect on weed
density under a soybean crop. In 2011e12 season, weed control
strategies had a signicant effect (P 0.0002) on weed density. The
treatments
atrazine
plus
manual
weeding,
and
atrazine glyphosate and metolachlor plus manual weeding both
had low weed density (60 and 63 weeds m2 respectively).
Comparably more weeds were recorded in paraquat plus manual
weeding and the atrazine glyphosate treatment (Fig. 1). In
2012e2013 season weed control strategies had no signicant differences on weed density but weed density was very low in all
treatments compared to other seasons. Furthermore, manual
weeding, paraquat plus manual weeding, and glyphosate plus
manual weeding had now similar weed densities.
At HRS, weed control strategies had a signicant effect (P < 0.05)
on weed density in 2009e2010 season only and manual weeding
only had the highest weed density (280 weeds m2) recorded and
the lowest weed density was 69 weeds m2 in
glyphosate atrazine plus manual weeding treatment (Fig. 1). In
the 2010e2011, 2011e2012 and 2012e2013 season, weed control
strategies had no signicant effect (P > 0.05) on weed density at this
site. It was noted that the 2012e2013 season had generally the
lowest weed counts compared to other seasons.
At UZ farm, weed control strategies exerted signicant differences (P 0.0003) on weed density in 2009e10 season only and
the largest weed density was recorded in manual weeding only
(Fig. 1). Glyphosate plus manual weeding had 189 weeds m2 and
the
smallest
weed
density
was
recorded
in
glyphosate atrazine metolachlor plus manual weeding
(78 weeds m2) (Fig. 1). The data for the 2010e2011, 2011e2012
and 2012e2013 seasons closely followed the data obtained at HRS
for the similar seasons.
3.2. Effects of different treatments, crops and sites on weed species
diversity and evenness under CA
The results showed that site, crop grown and their interactions
had a signicant effect (P < 0.001, P 0.015 and P < 0.001
respectively) on weed species diversity in CA plots. Weed species
diversity was low at all sites and in all seasons and the treatments
had no signicant differences on weed species diversity at all sites
and in all seasons. At DTC the species diversity index was higher in
the maize phase than in soybean phase. The same trend was
observed at HRS. At UZ farm the maize phase had higher weed
species diversity index than the soybean phase, as observed at all
other sites. Soybean phases at UZ farm had higher weed species
diversity indices than those recorded at DTC and HRS in all seasons.
The results from the combined linear mixed model indicated that
site had a signicant effect on species evenness (P < 0.001). However, treatments and different crops grown (maize and soybean)

had no effect on the evenness of weeds in the plots. A signicant


site  crop interaction was observed. The results indicated that
species were not uniformly distributed in the plots at all sites and in
all seasons.
3.3. Effects of different treatments and sites on weed species
richness at all sites
Weed species richness was greatly affected by site and treatments in the combined linear mixed model analysis (P < 0.001 and
P 0.001 respectively). However, within sites and seasons, the
analysis showed no treatment effects on species richness in all
years except in 2011e2012 season at DTC. More weed species were
observed in the early years of the study and the weed species
decreased with the duration of the experiment. In the 2011e2012
season, atrazine plus manual weeding, glyphosate atrazine plus
manual weeding and glyphosate atrazine metolachlor plus
manual weeding had similar species richness. In the 2009e2010
season, the dominant weed species observed were Amaranthus
hybridus L., Leucas martinicensis (Jacq.) R. Br, Cyperus spp, Conyza
albida Spreng., Galinsoga parviora Cav., Eleusine indica L., Richardia
scabra L. and Commelina benghalensis L. In 2010e2011 season species richness and the number of dominant weed species decreased.
In this season only ve weed species were observed in large
numbers and these were: A. hybridus L., G. parviora Cav., E. indica
L., and R. scabra L. In the 2011e2012 season, manual weeding,
paraquat plus manual weeding and glyphosate plus manual
weeding had similar number of weed species as recorded in
2010e2011 season. A further decrease in dominant species was also
observed in 2011e2012 season where E. Indica L., G. parviora Cav.,
R. scabra L. and C. benghalensis L. were the common weed species. In
the 2012e2013 season the species richness in manual weeding,
paraquat plus manual weeding and glyphosate plus manual
weeding decreased by more than 50% and atrazine plus manual
weeding had the highest number of species. Only two dominant
species (G. parviora Cav. and R. scabra L.) were recorded under
manual weeding.
At HRS weed control strategies had no signicant differences on
species richness in all the four seasons. Manual weeding, paraquat
plus manual weeding and atrazine plus manual weeding had
almost the same number of weed species (8 weed species). The
herbicide combinations (glyphosate atrazine plus manual
weeding and glyphosate atrazine metolachlor plus manual
weeding) had the same number of weed species (6 weed species).
Dominant weed species in this season were Cyperus spp, Digiteria
sanguinalis L., E. Indica L., Bulbostylis hispidula Vahl and R. scabra L.
The species richness decreased in 2010e2011 season and the
smallest number of weed species (4 weed species) was recorded in
glyphosate atrazine metolachlor plus manual weeding.
Glyphosate plus manual weeding had higher species richness than
all the other treatments. The dominant weed species in 2010e2011
season were D. sanguinalis L. and R. scabra L. In 2011e2012 season
there was an increase in species richness and more weed species
were observed in paraquat plus manual weeding (9 weed species).
Also the number of dominant weed species also increased which
included Dactylocterium aegyptium L., D. sanguinalis L., B. hispidula
Vahl and R. scabra L. In 2012e2013 species richness decreased and
only two species were dominant (D. aegyptium L. and R. scabra L.).
Manual weeding only had the lowest species richness and atrazine
plus manual weeding had more weed species.
At UZ farm, weed control strategies had no signicant effect on
species richness in all seasons. In 2009e2010 season the number of
dominant weed species was ve which included A. hybridus L.,
G. parviora Cav, Foeniculum vulgare Mill, L. martinicensis and
R. scabra. The dominant species recorded in this season were lower

T. Muoni et al. / Crop Protection 66 (2014) 1e7

than the species recorded in 2009e2010 season, namely


L. martinicensis (Jacq.) R. Br, F. vulgare Mill, G. parviora Cav and
R. scabra L. Although the species richness decreased in 2010e2011
season, it increased in the succeeding season (2011e2012) in all
treatments except in paraquat plus manual weeding. Bidens pilosa
L. was an additional dominant weed species that was observed.
Species richness decreased in 2012e2013 season by more than 50%
when compared to all the other seasons in all treatments and only
L. martinicensis (Jacq.) R. Br, G. parviora Cav and R. scabra L. were
dominant weed species.
R. scabra L. was a common weed species that was observed in all
treatments and at all sites in all seasons. At DTC, G. parviora Cav
additionally was common and was observed in all seasons and in all
treatments. At UZ, L. martinicensis (Jacq.) R. Br and G. parviora Cav
were the most common weed species besides R. scabra L. and all
were observed throughout the study period.
4. Discussion
4.1. Effect of different weed control strategies on weed density at all
sites and in all seasons
The results showed that different weed control strategies
(manual weeding and herbicides) reduced the weed density over
time no matter which strategy was used. In manual weeding the
decrease in weed density may be due to the suppressing effect of
crop residues during the growing season. Crop residues help
reduce weed seeds germination by impeding the light to reach the
seeds and also facilitate suppression of the emerged weeds
(Chhokar et al., 2007). Also weed seeds at the soil surface degrade
faster under CA due to increased soil biological activities. Weed
seeds at the soil surface are too exposed to predation hence, their
chances of emerging are reduced thus reducing the weed density
(Mwale, 2009). The decline in weed density over time can also be
attributed to continuous weeding before weed plants set seed.
This may have reduced the weed seed bank, which may have
otherwise germinated under CA systems. The results concurred
with Mashingaidze et al. (2012) who reported that increasing
hand hoe weeding intensity signicantly reduces weed density in
the elds over time. The maizeesoybean rotation additionally
contributed to the decline in weed density at all sites. Soybean has
a high plant population per hectare and provides more ground
cover and shading, which gives it a competitive advantage over
weeds enabling two weeding to be sufcient for the whole season.
Hence, rotational systems that include a legume with narrow row
spacing have a greater potential of suppressing weeds in the long
run as reported by Wall (2007) even in the absence of herbicides
use.
Residual herbicides such as atrazine provide longer weed control that help better reduction of broadleaf and annual grasses
weed density within the seasons. Paraquat and glyphosate have no
residual control effect hence their suppressive effect control is only
effective if they are continuously applied during the season e.g. by
using specialised equipment such as weed wipes or sprayers with
shields. Controlling small weeds contributed to the decrease in
weed density at all sites over time as weeds did not set seed, which
may have substantially depleted the weed seed bank at the soil
surface. This was previously observed by Mwale (2009). As no other
seeds from the sub-soil are ploughed up under CA, there is hope
that the use of chemical products like herbicides may only be
temporarily necessary. Thus providing continuous year round weed
control under CA is recommended to avoid weeds setting seed
(ZCATF, 2012). A decrease in weed density also suggests that yield
losses due to crop-weed competition is reduced and also less time
is spent on weeding (Muoni et al., 2013).

4.2. Effects of different treatments, crops and sites on weed species


diversity and evenness under CA
The results showed that site and crop as well as their interactions had signicant effects on the weed species diversity
index. This may be due to differences of soil types and the
different ground cover between maize and soybean. Under soybean, fewer weeds were observed hence, the weed species diversity decreased. However, under the maize phase with reduced
ground cover, weed species diversity increased. Herbicide treatments had no signicant differences on weed species diversity
because herbicides such as paraquat, glyphosate and metolachlor
are non-selective and will control all present weeds. Although
atrazine is selective against broadleaved weeds and some annual
grasses, most controlled species that were recorded in this study
were annual weed species. The presence of crop residues combined with effective hand weeding also suppressed weeds leading to low weed species diversity (Jones et al., 1999). Reduced
weed species diversity may also be caused by minimum soil
disturbance practised under CA, which reduces the chances of
developing more complicated perennial weed species. This is due
to reduced cultivation that favours weeds with protracted
germination pattern (Chivinge, 1988). The results also indicated
that sites had a signicant effect on the evenness of weed species
which may be due to different management practices that were
practised before the establishment of the trials. The weeds were
growing freely and allowed to set seed before the trial was
conducted. The reduced weed species diversity means there is
reduced crop-weed competition for water, space, nutrients and
harbouring of pests that may lower the farmers' yields. A further
decrease in weed species diversity may also suggest that the seed
bank is getting continuously smaller with improved weed management, thus reduced herbicide dosages may be used to control
weeds. The results also indicated that sites had a signicant effect on the evenness of weed species which may be due to
different management practices that were practised before the
establishment of the trials. The weeds were growing freely and
allowed to set seed before the trial was conducted. The unevenness of weeds in the plots enables spot weeding to be done
in the elds. This also reduces the labour requirements and the
herbicide quantity that may be needed in situations where
weeds are evenly distributed.
4.3. Effects of different treatments and sites on weed species
richness at all sites
There was a decrease in species richness at all sites as the
number of the seasons increased. This is due to the decrease in
weed density through improved weed management practices that
were done in the plots. The decrease can also be attributed to
decrease of weed seeds in the soil thus some species were effectively controlled. The dominant weed species were annual and
perennial species. All species that were recorded at all sites where
small seeded and shallow germinators, and some species such as
Cyperus spp reproduce by both seed and tubers (Botha, 2001).
Weeds which produce small seeds increase in CA systems because
they can germinate even when covered by crop residues
(Makanganise and Mabasa, 1999). However, these weeds are also
easily controlled when they are young because they have a shallow
root system. Also the accumulation of the weed seeds at the soil
surface increases their chance to germinate in one season and they
are exposed to insect predation, fungal and bacterial attack thus
depletion of the weed seed bank is high (Wagner and Mitschunas,
2008). In the soybean phase, species richness decreased because
some weeds emerged later in the season or even failed to

T. Muoni et al. / Crop Protection 66 (2014) 1e7

germinate when the ground cover was high. Hence, few weed
species were recorded under the soybean phases. It is also possible
that soybean could have suppressed weeds via allelopathy (Wang
et al., 2010). Paraquat plus manual weeding and glyphosate plus
manual weeding had similar species richness to manual weeding
because paraquat and glyphosate have no residual control, hence
they controlled weeds at planting only (Muoni et al., 2013). In
treatments with atrazine, the species richness was small because of
the longer residual control characteristic of the herbicides
(Williams et al., 2010). This reduced the germination of most weed
species (especially annual species). The dominant weed species at
all sites and in all seasons was R. scabra L. which is a shallow germinator and has small seeds (Botha, 2001). Thus it can emerge even
when covered by residues or with little soil cover, contributing to
high weed density during the cropping season. Also R. scabra L. has
protracted germination pattern that makes it germinate
throughout the season especially after cultivation (Chivinge, 1988).
Its rst ush in the season is the highest to be experienced in the
growing season and it only reproduced by seed only. Its appearance
in all seasons could be due to its large number of seed in the soil
that was depleted gradually during the course of the study. The
weed is controlled by herbicides such as glyphosate, atrazine and
metolachlor but hand hoe weeding is essential to control that has
escaped the herbicide spray. Succeeding hand hoe weeding is
necessary to control all emerging weeds before they set seed.
Avoiding this weed from setting seed creates better chances of
depleting it in the soil seed bank. R. scabra L. grow better in
exhausted soils hence, with gradually increasing soil fertility under
CA there are chances that the weed may not be observed in large
numbers (Mavunganidze et al., 2009).
5. Conclusion
The use of herbicides in combination with manual hoe weeding and applying all the CA principles facilitates decrease in weed
density over time. Continuous weeding under CA promotes weed
control before the weed species set seed, thus reducing of the
number of weed seeds in the soil seed bank. Herbicide use
together with crop residues reduces weed species diversity under
CA systems. Rotating maize with soybean also reduces weed
species diversity through suppressing weeds during the growing
weeds. Weed species were not evenly distributed at all sites
indicating dominance of some weed species under different soil
types and environments. Improved weed management practices
reduced the species richness at all sites. This suggests that herbicides, crop residues and hand hoe weeding played a key role in
reducing the weed species that were observed at the onset of the
research. Reduction in weed density, species diversity and evenness suggests that the use of herbicides may be reduced or discontinued after some time, which will be a great benet for
smallholder farmers. However, these ndings require further assessments at on-farm level under farmer management practices.
From this study it can be concluded that weed control involving
herbicides are an important aspect in the control of weeds in
smallholder farmer systems of southern Africa. However, the
reduction in weed density and species composition in all weed
control strategies under CA shows that with good and effective
weed control, the weed seed bank can be depleted, which will
reduce the labour requirements for smallholder farmers and costs
for herbicides over time.
Acknowledgements
Gratitude is due to the International Maize and Wheat
Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) under the CGIAR Research

Program (CRP) MAIZE for logistically supporting and to the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) for funding
the research. Special thanks go to Mr Sign Phiri and Mr Herbert
Chipara for technical support to make the research a success.
Field staffs at Henderson Research Station and Domboshawa
Training Centre are greatly acknowledged for their limitless
effort during the course of the research. We would like to extend
our gratitude to the anonymous reviewers for their constructive
criticism. Special thanks go to Blessing Mhlanga, Regina Hlatywayo, Wadzanai Mvundura, Connie Madembo, Givemore Makonya, Siyabusa Mkuhlani and Jephias Mataruse for helping on the
study. To Deniah Fadzai Nyereyegona and Muoni family, you are
all special.

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