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It takes a village to stop weeds

Researchers say the community nature of the problem of invasive weeds hasn’t been adequately incorporated into control efforts

Invasive weeds are a problem that defies solution, and only seems to get worse.

That’s because they’re a community problem that cross property boundaries, according to weed scientist Muthu Bagavathiannan, of Texas A&M.

Finding a real solution will involve recognizing the nature of weeds as a community problem, and managing them accordingly, he and other researchers wrote recently in the journal Nature Plants.

Bagavathiannan and fellow researcher Sonia Graham jointly led a 15-person team around the world that looked at weeds through a “cross-boundary lens.”

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The paper, they say, is a call to action for scholars and practitioners to broaden their thinking and approaches to weed management problems, beginning with evaluating the “public-good” characteristics of specific weed management challenges.

“The public-goods lens highlights the broader social vision required for successful weed management,” Graham said. “Public goods like weed management are best achieved with the help of many people living and working across landscapes. We need to make the most of the diverse interests, knowledge and skill sets of those involved in managing weeds.”

Agricultural and natural landscapes worldwide are affected by weeds, but management techniques have primarily been developed for individual landowners. The practices rarely look at how control from a collective perspective would improve overall weed management outcomes.

“We suggest that a major limitation of current best management practices is an underappreciation for the complex, multi-scale and collective nature of the weed problem,” Bagavathiannan said.

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