You are on page 1of 7



There are numerous definitions of a weed, including:

• a plant out of place and not intentionally sown

• a plant growing where it is not wanted
• a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered. (R.W.Emerson)
• plants that are competitive, persistent, pernicious, and interfere
negatively with human activity (Ross, et. al.)

Weeds are plants whose undesirable qualities outweigh their good points,
according to man. Our human activities create weed problems since no plant is a
"weed" in nature. Though we may try to manipulate nature for our own good,
nature is persistent. Through the manipulation process, certain weeds are
controlled, while, other more serious weeds may thrive because favorable
growing conditions for them also have been meet. Weeds are naturally strong
competitors and those weeds that can best competitors always tend to dominate.
Both humans and nature are involved in plant breeding programs. The main
difference between the two programs is that man breeds plants for yield, while
nature breeds plants for survival.


Certain characteristics are associated with and allow the survival of weeds.
Weeds posses one or more of the following:

a) abundant seed production;

b) rapid population establishment;
c) seed dormancy;
d) long-term survival of buried seed;
e) adaptation for spread;
f) presence of vegetative reproductive structures; and
g) ability to occupy sites disturbed by human activities.

There are approximately 250,000 species of plants worldwide; of those, about 3%

or 8000 species behave as weeds. Weeds are troublesome in many ways.
Primarily, they reduce crop yield by competing for water, light, soil nutrients, and
space. Other problems associated with weeds in agriculture include:

a) reduced crop quality by contaminating the commodity;

b) interference with harvest;
c) serve as hosts for crop diseases or provide shelter for insects to
d) limit the choice of crop rotation sequences and cultural
practices; and
e) production of chemical substances which are toxic to crop plants
(allelopathy), animals, or humans.

Costs of weeds
Weeds are common on all 485 million acres of U.S. cropland and almost one
billion acres of range and pasture. Since weeds are so common, people generally
do not understand their economic impact on crop losses and control costs. In
1991, the estimated average annual monetary loss caused by weeds with current
control strategies in the 46 crops grown in the United States was $4.1 billion. If
herbicides were not used, this loss was estimated to be $19.6 billion. Losses in
field crops accounted for 82% of this total (Bridges; WSSA, 1992).

Another source estimates that U.S. farmers annually spend $3.6 billion on
chemical weed control and $2.6 billion for cultural and other methods of control.
The total cost of weeds in the United States could approach $15 to $20 billion
dollars (Ashton and Monaco, 1991). Also, weed control and other input costs (e.g.,
seed, fertilizer, other pesticides, and fuel) vary with the crop. For example, in the
mid-90s, herbicides for soybeans cost $30/acre or about 47% of the $63/acre in
total purchased input. For corn, the cost was $32/acre or about 28% of the
$114/acre in total purchased input. And for wheat it was $6 or about 6% of the
total $96/acre inputs. Several factors help determine the relative costs of
herbicides from one crop to another and include the competitive ability of the
crop, the weeds present, the contribution of non-chemical control practices, the
tillage method, management decisions, and the value of the crop. (Ross and
Lembi, 1999).


Despite the negative impacts of weeds, some plants usually thought of as weeds
may actually provide some benefits. Some attributes include:

• soil stabilization;
• habitat and feed for wildlife,
• nectar for bees;
• aesthetic qualities;
• add organic matter;
• provide genetic reservoir;
• human consumption; and
• provide employment opportunities.

Benefits of Weeds in Farming Systems:

Organic farmers and growers should not be aiming to completely eradicate weeds
from their fields and farms. Management rather than complete control is a more
realistic and desirable goal. The word 'management' emphasises use of
appropriate methods to maintain acceptable weed levels that take into account
short-term economic and long-term ecological issues.

In spite of all the difficulties caused by weeds, they can offer some beneficial
properties, particularly when occurring at low densities. These aspects should be
utilised in the farming system, although this may make organic management
more complicated than chemical based systems. Some of the potential benefits of
weeds are listed below:

• Helping to conserve soil moisture and prevent erosion. A ground cover of

weeds will reduce the amount of bare soil exposed helping to conserve
nutrients, particularly nitrogen which could otherwise be leached away,
especially on light soils.
• Food and shelter can be provided for natural enemies of pests and even
alternative food sources for crop pests. The actual presence of weed cover
may be a factor in increasing effectiveness of biological control of pests
and reducing pest damage.
• Weeds can also be valuable indicators of growing conditions in a field, for
example of water levels, compaction and pH.
• Weeds can be an important source of food for wildlife, especially birds.
Bird populations have been declining on farmland over the last few
decades and leaving weeds as a resource has been shown to help revive
bird populations.

• There may be a case for weed cover in woody nursery stock crops during
the period
November - March (approx) provided they are immature i.e. non-flowering,
where they provide frost protection to the soil i.e. prevent soil from
freezing thus permitting easier lifting of bare root plants during frosty
• Weeds contribute to the stability or persistence of insects where crops are
seasonally (harvest) or annually (crop rotations) absent and this may help
to provide alternatives for entomopathogens associated with these pests.
This is because survival of entomopathogens depends upon supply of host
insects and where host specific entomopathogens are involved,
elimination of these insects may interfere with their survival. For instance,
Pandora neoaphidis and Conidiobolus obscurus has been reported to
multiply and overwinter in economically unimportant aphid species in
meadows adjacent to annual crops and reduce pest aphid populations in
adjacent annual crops. It has also been found that weed canopy affords a
better environment for transmission of entomophthoralean fungi than
wheat crop alone. This means that the presence of weeds may enhance
the effect of entomopathogens through maintenance of high humidity that
is required for sporulation and provide shelter against adverse conditions

Uses for weeds:

Although normally viewed as a menace it is possible to find uses for plants that
otherwise would be regarded as weeds. Listed below are some links to sites that
see weeds in a different light:

• Weeds can be a source of income. The Kew Garden site gives the results
of a project entitled 'Commercial use of wild and traditionally managed
plants in the UK' (PDF - 795Kb). The site gives a number of examples from
bracken compost to bulrush baskets, and laver bread to living willow

• Products made from wild plants play a role in the economies of many rural
communities and the report explores the extent and potential for the
commercial uses of wild and traditionally managed plants in the UK today.

• Having a wide and diverse range of plant species can assist in animal
health as discussed and can promote animal self-medication.

• Weeds can be used as indicators plants.

• It is only fair to admit that weeds do sometimes perform useful services to

the land. Their presence compels tillage, and the most profitable farming
is that which keeps the ground well tilled.
• They form the greater part of the covering which Nature promptly spreads
over soil that the shiftless cultivator has left bare and neglected, keeping it
from being blown about by winds, washed away by flood or rain, or baked
into a barren desert by the sun. And such a weed-blanket, if turned under
the ground in preparing it for a better crop, will supply the soil with green
manure or humus, which it very much need. It is well that Nature is thus
able to redeem the sins of slothful and selfish men, but her processes are
too slow. The world grows no larger and its population increases very fast.
The surest hope of its continued comfort and prosperity lies in better
• While charlock, a common weed in southeastern USA, may be considered
a weed by row crop growers, it is highly valued by beekeepers, who seek
out places where it blooms all winter, thus providing pollen for honeybees
and other pollinators. Its bloom is resistant to all but a very hard freeze,
and even that will only kill it back briefly. By feeding an array of pollinators
during a seasonal dearth, it can redound to the farmer's advantage. Many
weeds are likewise highly beneficial to pollinators.


Weeds cause a direct money loss to the farmer and to the nation. In the first
place, the presence of weeds in such abundance as to attract notice, reduces the
selling value of the land. Rank growth of weeds may indicate fertility of the soil,
and often the fitness of the ground for particular crops may be judged by the
kinds of weeds on the ground.


 Weeds reduce the crop yield. It is this crop loss that is most considered
when estimating the damage suffered from weeds.
 All living plants must have a certain amount of space for the circulation of
air and moisture and to be open to the life-giving warmth and light of the
sun. When crowded, even among themselves, they cannot thrive; and if
this needed space is to any extent occupied by weeds, the returns from
the crop must be correspondingly less.
 These obnoxious neighbours also steal from the soil a large share of the
food and drink belonging to the rightful tenants of the ground.
 The robbery of soil moisture is one of the chief forms of injury.
 Weeds are notoriously more resistant to drought, more rapid of growth,
more sturdy of habit, and more tenacious of life than the cultivated plants
that they "shade down" or "starve out." It has been estimated by the
United States Department of Agriculture that the average yearly loss due
to weeds in the crop and meadow lands of the country is about a dollar
an acre.
 The presence of weeds not only decreases the yield, but also increases
the expense of harvesting a crop.
 The market value of the crop is reduced.
 Weedy stubbles are often a breeding ground for cut-worms, flea-beetles,
and other insect plagues.
 Some, like the Death Camas and the Water Hemlock, or Cowbane, are
poisonous, and cattle and sheep die from eating their young leaves or
juicy tubers; even loss of human life is sometimes due to the deadly
poison of the Hemlock, through the mistaking of its tuberous roots for
harmless artichokes.
 In the Great Plains Region, horses and cattle are killed or made worthless
by the "Loco Weeds."
 Weeds can compete with productive crops or pasture, or convert
productive land into unusable scrub.
 Onions are one of the crops most susceptible to competition, for they are
slow to germinate and produce slender, upright stems. Quick growing,
broad leafed weeds therefore have a distinct advantage, and if not
removed, the crop is likely to be lost.
 Broad beans however produce large seedlings, and will suffer far less
profound effects of weed competition other than during periods of water
shortage at the crucial time when the pods are filling out.
 Transplanted crops rose in sterile seed or potting compost will have a
head start over germinating weed seeds.
 Weeds also differ in their competitive abilities, and can vary according to
conditions and the time of year. Tall growing vigorous weeds such as fat
hen (Chenopodium album) can have the most pronounced effects on
adjacent crops, although seedlings of fat hen that appear in late summer
will only produce small plants.
 Chickweed (Stellaria media), a low growing plant, can happily co-exist
with a tall crop during the summer, but plants that have overwintered will
grow rapidly in early spring and may swamp crops such as onions or
spring greens.
 However, as the seedlings’ size increases of main crop increases, their
root systems will spread as they each begin to require greater amounts
of water and nutrients. Estimates suggest that weed and crop can co-
exist harmoniously for around three weeks, therefore it is important that
weeds are removed early on in order to prevent competition occurring.

 Perennial weeds with bulbils, such as lesser celandine and oxalis, or

with persistent underground stems such as couch grass (Agropyron
repens) or creeping buttercup (Ranunculus repens) are able to store
reserves of food, and are thus able to grow faster and with more
vigour than their annual counterparts.
 The roots of some perennials weeds such as couch grass exude
allelopathic chemicals which inhibit the growth of other nearby plants.
 Weeds can also host pests and diseases that can spread to cultivated
crops. Charlock and Shepherd's purse may carry club root, eelworm
can be harboured by chickweed, fat hen and shepherd's purse, while
the cucumber mosaic virus, which can devastate the cucurbit family,
is carried by a range of different weeds including chickweed and


Typically combinations of methods are used in organic situations.

• Drip irrigation: Rubber hoses and other methods are used to bring water
directly to the roots of the desired plants. This limits weed access to water.
• Manually pulling weeds: Labourers are used to pull weeds at various points
in the growing process.
• Mechanically tilling around plants: Tractors are used to carefully till weeds
around the crop plants at various points in the growing process. Besides
tilling, other mechanical weed control methods also exist
• Ploughing: Ploughing includes tilling of soil, intercultural ploughing and
summer ploughing. Ploughing through tilling of soil uproots the weeds
which causes them to die. In summer ploughing is done during deep
summers. Summer ploughing also helps in killing pests.
• Crop rotation: Rotating crops with ones that kill weeds by choking them
out, such as hemp Mucuna pruriens, and other crops, can be a very
effective method of weed control. It is a way to avoid the use of
herbicides, and to gain the benefits of crop rotation.

• Weed mat: A weed mat is an artificial mulch, fibrous cloth material, bark or
newspaper laid on top of the soil preventing weeds from growing to the


Weed control can also be achieved by the use of herbicides. Selective herbicides
kill certain targets while leaving the desired crop relatively unharmed. Some of
these act by interfering with the growth of the weed and are often based on plant
hormones. Herbicides are generally classified as follows;

• Contact herbicides destroy only that plant tissue in contact with the
chemical spray. Generally, these are the fastest acting herbicides. They
are ineffective on perennial plants that are able to re-grow from roots or
• Systemic herbicides are foliar-applied and are translocated through the
plant and destroy a greater amount of the plant tissue. Modern herbicides
such as glyphosate are designed to leave no harmful residue in the soil.
• Soil-borne herbicides are applied to the soil and are taken up by the roots
of the target plant.
• Pre-emergent herbicides are applied to the soil and prevent germination or
early growth of weed seeds.


All weeds are not harmful to crops .Every farmers should check the weed growth
and they must take adequate measures to control it. Thus we can avoid the
losses caused by weeds.


 www.pakissan .com
 www3.interscience.wiley