Sustainable/Ecological Weed Management

Ecological Weed Management


Crop loss to resource competition with weeds is considerable in sub-Saharan African smallholder systems.  Yet, many weeding recommendations for farmers are based on on-farm experiments that do not account for realistic smallholder agroecological conditions and/or socioeconomic constraints such as labor availability.  Additionally, methods that treat weed emergence, such as herbicides and time-sensitive manual removal, require financial capital and labor during a resource-constrained period in the cropping cycle.  Ecological weed management practices that focus on preventing weed emergence may offer better alternatives.  Examples of ecological weed management practices include employing systems, such as rotations and intercrops, that create an unsuitable environment for weeds.  The efficacy of such practices can be enhanced when they are developed in partnership with farmers in order to address realistic on-farm constraints and opportunities. 


  • May increase crop yields
  • Employs agroecological resource complementarity
  • May improve soil quality 


  • May require additional labor and landholdings
  • May require financial capital (seeds and possibly labor)
  • Potential marginal crop loss of staple crop via loss of space or competition 


Weed control by smallholder farmers in Ciskei, Eastern Cape Province, South Africa

The potential benefits of weeds with reference to smallholder agriculture in Africa

The Integrated Weed Management in Zimbabwe’s Smallholder Sector, Where Are We?

Extended Bibliography & Works Cited:

Ae, N., Arihara, J., Okada, K., Yoshihara, T., Otani, T., & Johansen, C. (1993). The role of piscidic acid secreted by pigeonpea roots grown in an Alfisol with low-P fertility. In Genetic aspects of plant mineral nutrition (pp. 279-288). Springer Netherlands.

Akobundu, I. O., & Ahissou, A. (1985). Effect of interrow spacing and weeding frequency on the performance of selected rice cultivars on hydromorphic soils of West Africa. Crop Prot. 4(1), 71–76.

Andersson, J. A., & D’Souza, S. (2014). From adoption claims to understanding farmers and contexts: A literature review of Conservation Agriculture (CA) adoption among smallholder farmers in southern Africa. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 187, 116-132.  

Tags: Agricultural Economics, Agrobiodiversity, Agronomy, Climate Change, Extension, Sociology, Soil Science, Sustainability Science