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Fracchiolla M.,University of Bari | Terzi M.,Italian National Council of ResearchInstitute of Biosciences and Bioresources | Frabboni L.,University of Foggia | Caramia D.,University of Foggia | And 4 more authors.
Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems | Year: 2015

This paper reports a survey on the weed flora and seed bank in an almond orchard sited in Apulia region (Southern Italy), where the following soil management practices have been compared for over 30 yrs: no-tillage, keeping the soil totally weed-free throughout the year by using pre-emergence herbicides to prevent plant emergence or post-emergence herbicides in case of weeds already emerged; no-tillage, with post-emergence herbicides; no-tillage, with mowing of natural weed flora in spring; cover cropping, with faba bean sown in November and green manured in springtime; conventional soil tillage. The different management techniques influenced significantly the weed flora in experimental plots, both in terms of quantity and quality. The seed bank was clearly impoverished after the long-term applications of pre-emergence herbicides, both in terms of richness and of diversity. During the fall period, the plots of conventional tillage or pre-emergence herbicides had less natural ground-flora than the others. During springtime, prior to the sward control practices, the plots treated by foliar herbicides or mowing had the highest total weed cover. We conclude that post-emergence weed control by mowing or using chemical herbicides or the green manure of the cover crop may be proposed to reduce impact to the soil and to promote the growth of abundant and sufficiently diversified and balanced flora. If appropriately managed, this flora can provide potential ecological services, without competing with the orchard, as suggested by the literature. During the autumn, natural flora can uptake soil nitrogen thus preventing leaching in the rainy season. In springtime, after the sward has been destroyed, natural flora can supply a substantial amount of biomass to the soil. Indicator species analysis was also used to find the species characterizing each treatment and some of their combinations. Weeds belonging to the Poaceae botanical family were significantly associated with post-emergence herbicides and mowing treatments. These species produce a substantial amount of biomass and have bunched roots; consequently, they supply beneficial effects by improving porosity and structure of the soil and reducing erosion hazard. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2015

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