Agronomy and Horticulture Department


Date of this Version



Singh M, Thapa R, Kukal MS, Irmak S, Mirsky S, Jhala AJ (2022). Effect of water stress on weed germination, growth characteristics, and seed production: a global meta-analysis. Weed Sci. doi: 10.1017/ wsc.2022.59


Open access.


Weeds compete with crops for soil moisture, along with other resources, which can impact the germination, growth, and seed production of weeds; however, this impact has not been systematically recorded and synthesized across diverse studies. To address this knowledge gap, a global meta-analysis was conducted using 1,196 paired observations from 86 published articles assessing the effect of water stress on weed germination, growth characteristics, and seed production. These studies were conducted and published during 1970 through 2020 across four continents (Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America). Imposed water stress was expressed as solution osmotic potential (ψsolution), soil water potential (ψsoil), or soil moisture as percent field capacity. Meta-analysis revealed that water stress inhibits weed germination, growth, and seed production, and the quantitative response intensified with increasing water stress. A ψsolution greater than −0.8 MPa completely inhibits germination of both grass and broadleaf weeds. A ψsolution from −0.09 to −0.32 MPa reduces weed germination by 50% compared with the unstressed condition. Moderate soil water stress, equivalent to 30% to 60% field capacity, inhibits growth characteristics (branches or tillers per plant, leaf area, leaves per plant, plant height, root, and shoot biomass) by 33% and weed seed production by 50%. Severe soil water stress, below 30% field capacity, inhibits weed growth by 51% and seed production by 88%. Although water stress inhibits weed growth, it does not entirely suppress the ability to germinate, grow, and produce seeds, resulting in weed seedbank accumulation. This creates management challenges for producers, because weed seeds can survive in the soil for many years, depending on weed species and environmental conditions. Quantitative information compiled in this meta-analysis can be instrumental to model the weeds’ multidimensional responses to water stress and designing integrated weed management strategies for reducing the weed seedbank.