Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Beetles: an alternative to herbicides?

British and French researchers have found that ground beetles can reduce the number of weed seeds surviving in the soil, thus contributing to weed management and reducing the need for herbicides. The findings provide further support for calls to conserve farmland biodiversity.

The study, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the French Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA), found that grass weeds were reduced more than other weeds, which is important because many UK farms have severe grass weed problems. Some of the species which were targeted by ground beetles are increasingly resistant to herbicides and can have significant effects on crop yields owing to competition for resources.

As herbicides become increasingly restricted, alternative means of weed control have the potential for significant impact. The report suggests that with the right management, ground beetles could replace some herbicide applications and significantly reduce weed populations. It goes on to say that agri-environment schemes such as Environmental Stewardship can already help to create suitable habitats for such invertebrates.

Read the full report here.