Jessica Green, Oregon State University
Field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) has long been a scourge to agricultural production. It is present in all 50 US states and is listed as a noxious weed in 23 of them. It is common on roadsides and vacant lots, rangelands, agricultural fields, and gardens.
Field bindweed competes with many crops and native species for resources such as water. Its twining growth habit can physically smother other vegetation. Field bindweed interferes with mechanical or hand-harvesting of crops. It can be toxic to livestock; its foliage contains alkaloids that can cause gut problems in horses. Lodging due to the action of field bindweed reduces yield reduction in small grains. Yield reduction in annual crops has ranged from 20-80%.
Why Field Bindweed is so Hard to Manage
Its biological characteristics and environmental tolerances make field bindweed difficult to manage. Its primary mode of reproduction is via roots that can extend 30’ laterally. These roots can form an extensive underground network. The laterals develop buds, each of which can sprout into a new vine or a new rhizome, depending on its depth in the soil. Field bindweed’s capacity to regenerate makes it so invasive and persistent.
- Root buds can form within 4 weeks of field bindweed emergence from seed.
- Field bindweed seed that can remain viable in the soil for up to 60 years.
- Field bindweed exudes allelochemicals that can inhibit the germination of the seed of other plants.
- It tolerates the allelochemicals produced by some other plants.
- Field bindweed includes a number of biotypes or genetic variants. Some of these are naturally resistant to the action of glyphosate.
Why Mechanical Management Doesn’t Work
Field bindweed poses formidable challenges to the organic grower who relies on mechanical approaches to weed control. Consider these research findings:
- Field bindweed must be pulled by hand before root buds form, making rigorous scouting essential.
- Mowing or cutting above-ground biomass can limit field bindweed growth if applied 30 times per year.
- Noticeable reduction in field bindweed growth requires 3 to 5 years of continued, every-other-week tillage to deplete carbohydrate reserves in root tissues.
- Tillage that is not deep enough or repeated often enough increases the problem by distributing rhizome fragments throughout the soil. Remember that each root bud can develop into another plant if buried at the right depth. Repeated tillage also has consequences for soil quality and may flush the seedbank of other weed species.
- Cover cropping or intercropping may inhibit field bindweed growth by depleting resources and competing for light, provided these approaches are consistent with the cropping system.
- Field bindweed can escape mulches and weed barrier fabric, limiting their value in field bindweed management.
This article is part of a series on Integrated Management of Field Bindweed. See also:
- Integrated Management of Field Bindweed: Ecological Management Planning
- Organic Management of Field Bindweed: Case Studies and Research Findings
Find more information about the USDA NIFA ORG project Harnessing the Voracity of the Biocontrol Tyta luctuosa to Improve Management of Field Bindweed During Transition to Organic and Beyond at https://www.eorganic.info/bindweed.
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