The discipline of weed biology has suffered a steady decline in funding and support over the past three decades beginning with the closure of the Weed Research Organisation in 1985.
Part of the reason for this decline has been the efficacy of modern herbicides meaning in conventional systems, as long as you can read the pesticide label, weeds can easily be controlled. However, the loss of active ingredients due to European legislation and the evolution of herbicide resistance have highlighted the need for integrated weed management that relies on knowledge of weed biology and the response of different species to alternative management scenarios.
In addition, increasing recognition of the positive role weeds play in the agro-ecosystem as a food source for invertebrates and birds has further highlighted the need to understand weed biology. These drivers have led to a renaissance in weed biology in the UK with a recent Ł1 M investment in a large project to improve the control of herbicide resistant black-grass. Current activities in weed science at Rothamsted will be reviewed with an emphasis on how the tools being developed are relevant to organic systems.