Introduction

Until very recently, the agronomist's view of the relationship between crops and weeds was dominated by the desire to find the most effective herbicide with which to kill an offending competitor plant. This philosophy has changed radically over the past decade. Pressures coming largely from the final link in the chain from field to plate, i.e. those who eat Brassica vegetables, now require producers to sustain and protect the environment in addition to providing wholesome foods. Reducing or eliminating the use of herbicides demands new attitudes to weed control using wider ranges of methods that prevent competition from weeds. This encompasses the strategy of 'integrated crop management' (ICM), which links all other aspects of crop husbandry discussed in this book. In ICM, consideration is primarily directed at determining the costs and benefits of whether or not weeds cause sufficient crop losses to make it worthwhile eradicating them. If the answer to that question is 'yes', then consideration moves to the opportunities for cultural and husbandry weed-controlling methods in preference to spraying herbicidal poisons. This approach will become ever more dominant over the coming decades such that agronomists and ecologists will need to work as a team growing economically successful Brassica crops with very limited, if any, use of herbicidal chemicals. Consequently, this chapter treats the control of weed competition in Brassica crops specifically from this ecological (commonly termed 'sustainable') perspective and a similar approach is adopted in Chapter 7 dealing with pests and pathogens.

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