Weed biology is the study of the establishment, growth, reproduction, and life cycles of weed species and weed societies/vegetation. Weed biology is an integrated science with the aim of minimizing the negative effects, as well as using and developing the positive effects, of weeds.
Life Cycle – Based on life cycle weeds are classified as annuals, biennials or perennials.
Annuals complete their life cycle from seed in less than one year. There are two types: summer and winter annuals. Summer annuals germinate in the spring, mature, produce flowers and seeds and die before fall. Winter annuals germinate in the fall, overwinter in a seedling or rosette stage, mature, produce flowers and seeds, and die in the spring or early summer. Because of the seedling stage, annual weeds are generally easy to control. There are usually few annual weeds present in lowbush blueberry fields.
Biennials generally complete their life cycle over two years. The first year the seeds germinate and form a basal cluster of leaves and a tap root. The plant overwinters in this stage. During the second year the weed produces a flower stalk, sets seed and dies. Examples of biennial weed are evening primrose and wild carrot.
Perennial weeds live for more than two years. These weeds are the most common in blueberry fields and generally the most difficult to control. Perennial weeds may reproduce primarily by seed (daisy); by both seed and roots (sheep sorrel); or primarily be vegetative means (bunchberry). Many perennial weeds grow in the same manner as the blueberry plant. Therefore, many of the production practices that promote blueberry growth (e.g. pruning) also promote growth of these weeds. Perennials which are low growing and spread vegetatively by interconnected underground root systems are the most difficult to control. Perennial weeds growing above the blueberries may be controlled by wiping or spot treatments with registered herbicides. Perennial weeds include both woody and herbaceous species.
Based on growth characters weeds are classified as grasses, broadleaf weeds, ferns and herbaceous or woody weeds.
Broadleaf weeds are annual, biennial or perennial plants which generally have two leaves (cotyledons) emerging upon germination. The leaves normally have a branching network of veins and the flowers have distinct petals.
Grasses, Sedges and Rushes
Grasses can be annual or perennial plants. They generally have narrow, upright, parallel-veined leaves. Grasses have jointed stems, usually hollow at the internodes and are circular in cross section. Sedges are a large group of perennial (rarely annual) grass-like plants which are common in wet, poorly drained soils. Sedge stems are triangular in cross section, solid, and not jointed.
Rushes are annual or perennial plants similar in appearance to sedges with grass-like tufted leaves common at the plant base. Rush stems are hollow, circular in cross section, and not jointed. Like the sedge, this plant is also common in wet areas or poorly drained soil, but is also found in woodland and open field
Ferns are primitive perennial plants that do not produce flowers and seeds. Ferns consist of a leaf or frond, a stalk and an expanded blade which may then be further subdivided several times. Ferns spread by long creeping rhizomes and/or by spores.
Based on reproductive strategy weeds are classified as seed, vegetative reproduction.
Reproduction by seed
Reproduction by seed is called sexual reproduction. It requires the fertilization of an egg by sperm, usually in the form of pollen. Pollination of the egg in a flower results in seed that is capable of producing a new plant. Seed production varies greatly among and within weed species in part due to environmental variability between years, competition from neighboring plants, and genetic variability.
Through sexual reproduction abundant and small seeds are produced. Annual and biennial weeds depend on seed production, as the sole means of propagation and survival of perennial weeds are less dependent on this mechanism. For example, while Canada thistle has been observed to produce as few as 680 seeds per plant, curly dock often produces more than 30,000 seeds per plant.
In vegetative (asexual) reproduction, a new plant develops from a vegetative organ such as a stem, root, or leaf. Several modifications of these organs are common in perennial weeds, such as underground stems (rhizomes), above-ground stems (stolons), bulbs, corms, and tubers. Although vegetative structures generally do not survive as long in the soil as do seeds, very small structures can result in a new plant. Vegetative reproduction can be as prolific as seed production.
Weed ecology is the study of the interaction or relationship between a weed and its environment (other living organisms as well as abiotic factors). Ecology is concerned with growth characteristics and adaptations that enable weeds to survive the change in the environment. Man plays an important role in changing the environment by altering the crop husbandry practices and by maintaining weed free monocrop or multicrop culture. For effective weed control, the study on both biology and ecology of a weed species are important.