Skip to main content Accessibility help

Weed Seed Persistence and Microbial Abundance in Long-Term Organic and Conventional Cropping Systems

  • Silke D. Ullrich (a1), Jeffrey S. Buyer (a1), Michel A. Cavigelli (a1), Rita Seidel (a2) and John R. Teasdale (a1)...


Weed seed persistence in soil can be influenced by many factors, including crop management. This research was conducted to determine whether organic management systems with higher organic amendments and soil microbial biomass could reduce weed seed persistence compared with conventional management systems. Seeds of smooth pigweed and common lambsquarters were buried in mesh bags in organic and conventional systems of two long-term experiments, the Farming Systems Project at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, Maryland, and the Farming Systems Trial at the Rodale Institute, Pennsylvania. Seed viability was determined after retrieval at half-year intervals for 2 yr. Total soil microbial biomass, as measured by phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) content, was higher in organic systems than in conventional systems at both locations. Over all systems, locations, and experiments, viable seed half-life was relatively consistent with a mean of 1.3 and 1.1 yr and a standard deviation of 0.5 and 0.3 for smooth pigweed and common lambsquarters, respectively. Differences between systems were small and relatively inconsistent. Half-life of smooth pigweed seeds was shorter in the organic than in the conventional system in two of four location-experiments. Half-life of common lambsquarters was shorter in the organic than in the conventional system in one of four location-experiments, but longer in the organic than in the conventional system in two of four location-experiments. There were few correlations between PLFA biomarkers and seed half-lives in three of four location-experiments; however, there were negative correlations up to −0.64 for common lambsquarters and −0.55 for smooth pigweed in the second Rodale experiment. The lack of consistent system effects on seed persistence and the lack of consistent associations between soil microbial biomass and weed seed persistence suggest that soil microorganisms do not have a dominating role in seed mortality. More precise research targeted to identifying specific microbial functions causing seed mortality will be needed to provide a clearer picture of the role of soil microbes in weed seed persistence.


Corresponding author

Corresponding author's E-mail:


Hide All
Benvenuti, S., Macchia, M., and Miele, S. 2001. Quantitative analysis of emergence of seedlings from buried seeds with increasing soil depth. Weed Sci. 49:528535.
Bernal-Lugo, I. and Leopold, A. C. 1998. The dynamics of seed mortality. J. Exp. Bot. 49:14551461.
Botto, J. F., Scopel, A. L., and Sánchez, R. A. 2000. Water constraints on the photoinduction of weed seed germination during tillage. Aust. J. Plant Physiol. 27:463471.
Bouwmeester, H. J. and Karssen, C. M. 1993. Seasonal periodicity in germination of seeds of Chenopodium album L. Ann. Bot. 72:463473.
Buhler, D. D. and Hartzler, R. G. 2001. Emergence and persistence of seed of velvetleaf, common waterhemp, woolly cupgrass, and giant foxtail. Weed Sci. 49:230235.
Burnside, O. C., Wilson, R. G., Weisberg, S., and Hubbard, K. G. 1996. Seed longevity of 41 weed species buried 17 years in eastern and western Nebraska. Weed Sci. 44:7486.
Buyer, J. S., Roberts, D. P., and Russek-Cohen, E. 1999. Microbial community structure and function in the spermosphere as affected by soil and seed type. Can. J. MicroBiol. 45:138144.
Buyer, J. S., Teasdale, J. R., Roberts, D. P., Zasada, I. A., and Maul, J. E. 2010. Factors affecting soil microbial community structure in tomato cropping systems. Soil Biol. BioChem. 42:831841.
Cavigelli, M. A., Teasdale, J. R., and Conklin, A. E. 2008. Long-term agronomic performance of organic and conventional field crops in the mid-Atlantic region. Agron. J. 100:785794.
Conn, J. S., Beattie, K. L., and Blanchard, A. 2006. Seed viability and dormancy of 17 weed species after 19.7 years of burial in Alaska. Weed Sci. 54:464470.
Cookson, W. R., Murphy, D. V., and Roper, M. M. 2008. Characterizing the relationships between soil organic matter components and microbial function and composition along a tillage disturbance gradient. Soil Biol. BioChem. 40:763777.
Cousens, R. and Mortimer, M. 1995. Dynamics of Weed Populations. New York Cambridge University Press. 332 p.
Davis, A. S. 2007. Nitrogen fertilizer and crop residue effects on seed mortality and germination of eight annual weed species. Weed Sci. 55:123128.
Davis, A. S., Anderson, K. I., Hallett, S. G., and Renner, K. A. 2006. Weed seed mortality in soils with contrasting agricultural management histories. Weed Sci. 54:291297.
Davis, A. S., Cardina, J., Forcella, F., Johnson, G. A., Kegode, G., Lindquist, J. L., Luschei, E. C., Renner, K. A., Sprague, C. L., and Williams, M. M. 2005. Environmental factors affecting seed persistence of annual weeds across the U.S. Corn Belt. Weed Sci. 53:860868.
Davis, A. S., Schutte, B. J., Iannuzzi, J., and Renner, K. A. 2008. Chemical and physical defense of weed seeds in relation to soil seedbank persistence. Weed Sci. 56:676684.
Fennimore, S. A. and Jackson, L. E. 2003. Organic amendment and tillage effects on vegetable field weed emergence and seedbanks. Weed Technol. 17:4250.
Frostegård, A. and Bååth, E. 1996. The use of phospholipid fatty acid analysis to estimate bacterial and fungal biomass in soil. Biol. Fertil. Soils. 22:5965.
Gallagher, R. S. and Cardina, J. 1998a. Phytochrome-mediated Amaranthus germination I. effect of seed burial and germination temperature. Weed Sci. 46:4852.
Gallagher, R. S. and Cardina, J. 1998b. Phytochrome-mediated Amaranthus germination II. development of very low fluence sensitivity. Weed Sci. 46:5358.
Gallandt, E. R., Fuerst, E. P., and Kennedy, A. C. 2004. Effect of tillage, fungicide seed treatment, and soil fumigation on seed bank dynamics of wild oat. Weed Sci. 52:597604.
Gallandt, E. R., Liebman, M., Corson, S., Porter, G. A., and Ullrich, S. D. 1998. Effects of pest and soil management systems on weed dynamics in potato. Weed Sci. 46:238248.
Gallandt, E. R., Liebman, M., and Huggins, D. R. 1999. Improving soil quality: implications for weed management. J. Crop Prod. 2:95121.
Grundy, A. C., Mead, A., and Burston, S. 2003. Modelling the emergence response of weed seeds to burial depth: interactions with seed density, weight and shape. J. Appl. Ecol. 40:757770.
Henson, I. E. 1970. The effects of light, potassium nitrate and temperature on the germination of Chenopodium album L. Weed Res. 10:2739.
Kennedy, A. C. 1999. Soil microorganisms for weed management. J. Crop Prod. 2:123138.
Kremer, R. J. and Li, J. 2003. Developing weed-suppressive soils through improved soil quality management. Soil Till. Res. 72:193202.
Legendre, P. and Gallagher, E. D. 2001. Ecologically meaningful transformations for ordination of species data. Oecologia. 129:271280.
Long, R. L., Panetta, F. D., Steadman, K. J., Probert, R., Bekker, R. M., Brooks, S., and Adkins, S. W. 2008. Seed persistence in the field may be predicted by laboratory-controlled aging. Weed Sci. 56:523528.
Lutman, P. J. W., Cussans, G. W., Wright, K. J., Wilson, B. J., Wright, G. M., and Lawson, H. M. 2002. The persistence of seeds of 16 weed species over six years in two arable fields. Weed Res. 42:231241.
Matilla, A., Gallardo, M., and Puga-Hermida, M. I. 2005. Structural, physiological and molecular aspects of heterogeneity in seeds: a review. Seed Sci. Res. 15:6376.
Menalled, F. D., Smith, R. G., Dauer, J. T., and Fox, T. B. 2007. Impact of agricultural management on carabid communities and weed seed predation. Agric. Ecosyst. Environ. 118:4954.
Mohler, C. L. 2001. Weed life history: identifying vulnerabilities. Pages 4098 in Liebman, M., Mohler, C. L., and Staver, C. P., eds. Ecological Management of Agricultural Weeds. New York Cambridge University Press.
Mohler, C. L. and Galford, A. E. 1997. Weed seedling emergence and seed survival: separating the effects of seed position and soil modification by tillage. Weed Res. 37:147155.
Navntoft, S., Wratten, S. D., Kristensen, K., and Esbjerg, P. 2009. Weed seed predation in organic and conventional fields. Biol. Cont. 49:1116.
Peacock, A. D., Mullen, M. D., Ringelberg, D. B., Tyler, D. D., Hedrick, D. B., Gale, P. M., and White, D. C. 2001. Soil microbial community responses to dairy manure or ammonium nitrate applications. Soil Biol. BioChem. 33:10111019.
Pimentel, D., Hepperly, P., Hanson, J., Douds, D., and Seidel, R. 2005. Environmental, energetic, and economic comparisons of organic and conventional farming systems. BioScience. 55:573582.
Sawma, J. T. and Mohler, C. L. 2002. Evaluating seed viability by an unimbibed seed crush test in comparison with the tetrazolium test. Weed Technol. 16:781786.
Schabenberger, O., Tharp, B. E., Kells, J. J., and Penner, D. 1999. Statistical tests for hormesis and effective dosages in herbicide dose response. Agron. J. 91:713721.
Schutte, B. J., Davis, A. S., Renner, K. A., and Cardina, J. 2008. Maternal and burial environment effects on seed mortality of velvetleaf and giant foxtail. Weed Sci. 56:834840.
Schweizer, E. E. and Zimdahl, R. L. 1984. Weed seed decline in irrigated soil after six years of continuous corn and herbicides. Weed Sci. 32:7683.
Seber, G. A. F. 1984. Multivariate Observations. New York John Wiley and Sons.
Steckel, L. E., Sprague, C. L., Stoller, E. W., Wax, L. M., and Simmons, F. W. 2007. Tillage, cropping system, and soil depth effects on common waterhemp seed-bank persistence. Weed Sci. 55:235239.
Teasdale, J. R., Mangum, R. W., Radhakrishnan, J., and Cavigelli, M. A. 2004. Weed seedbank dynamics in three organic farming crop rotations. Agron. J. 96:14291435.
Teo-Sherrell, C. P. A., Mortensen, D. A., and Keaton, M. E. 1996. Fates of weed seeds in soil: a seeded core method of study. J. Appl. Ecol. 33:11071113.
Van Mourik, T. A., Stomph, T. J., and Murdoch, A. J. 2005. Why high seed densities with buried mesh bags may overestimate depletion rates of soil seed banks. J. Appl. Ecol. 42:299305.
Wagner, M. and Mitschunas, N. 2008. Fungal effects on seed bank persistence and potential applications in weed biocontrol: a review. Basic Appl. Ecol. 9:191203.
Yao, S., Lan, H., and Zhang, F. 2010. Variation of seed heteromorphism in Chenopodium album and the effect of salinity stress on the descendants. Ann. Bot. 105:10151025.
Zelles, L. 1999. Fatty acid patterns of phospholipids and lipopolysaccharides in the characterisation of microbial communities in soil: a review. Biol. Fertil. Soils. 29:111129.


Related content

Powered by UNSILO

Weed Seed Persistence and Microbial Abundance in Long-Term Organic and Conventional Cropping Systems

  • Silke D. Ullrich (a1), Jeffrey S. Buyer (a1), Michel A. Cavigelli (a1), Rita Seidel (a2) and John R. Teasdale (a1)...


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.