Despite the fact that most seed bank weed are not perennial, their seeds are stored in the soil until they are ready to germinate. The size of the seed bank varies by species and is an important factor in the dynamics of weed populations, their community composition and the influence of agronomic practices on aboveground vegetation. Knowledge of the weed seed bank is essential for understanding how weed populations develop over time and for predicting future infestations. It also allows for the development of simulation models that predict population establishment over time and the definition of soil and cultural management programs.
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However, estimating the weed seed bank requires specific sampling protocols in order to have good precision. The number of cores required depends on the weed species, the desired level of precision and the time of year that the sample is taken. For example, the Xanthium strumarium seedbank needs 21 cores for an estimated precision of 0.3. Similarly, species with very low densities require a large number of cores to estimate the weed seed bank accurately.
The time of year that the samples are taken has also an impact on their effectiveness. For instance, in temperate areas, samples collected after seed rain will likely need stratification (alternating temperatures) to break their dormancy and encourage germination.
Other factors that can affect the size of the weed seed bank include cropping and tillage practices, harvesting equipment, livestock manure, and environmental conditions. For example, tilling the soil reduces the longevity of weed seeds compared to non-tilled areas. In addition, storing livestock manure decreases the number of viable weed seeds compared to fresh manure. Lastly, wind and machinery can move weed seeds from one field to another.