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Aspects of vine weeds and the challenges for their control in the sugar cane fields of Mauritius

Gaungoo A., Seeruttun S., Barbe C., Le Bourgeois T.. 2013. In : Proceeding of the 16th symposium EWRS. Samsun : EWRS, 1 p.. EWRS Symposium. 16, 2013-06-24/2013-06-27, Samsun (Turquie).

Vine weeds are creeping, climbing and twining plant species that depend on neighbouring plants and objects for their support and development. They have an extensive type of growth, making them fundamentally different from classical weeds which are generally more localised. The sprawling nature of vine weeds together with other biological traits makes their control difficult and ineffective in sugar cane, especially when the crop is tall. Studies on their biology and ecology, based on a holistic approach, are underway in Mauritius to find sustainable solutions for their management through experiments in the fields and in controlled conditions. Research is progressing on four main fronts namely on understanding their (1) ecology and distribution, (2) seed germination and emergence abilities, (3) life cycles and (4) mechanisms of competition. Preliminary results presented here are focused on germination and emergence abilities and their consequences for vine weed control. Twelve major vine species are present in the sugar cane fields. Basella alba, Ipomoea hederifolia and I. grandifolia are the most aggressive species, the latter being very widespread. Most of the vine plants reproduce through the production of large amounts of fertile seeds having diameter ranging from 2 to 4 mm. This endows them with the capacity to germinate and emerge from depths beyond 6 cm in the soil, and through a mulch of 5 to 10 cm thick, resulting in the ineffectiveness of most pre-emergence herbicide treatment. The germination and emergence of the large-seeded vine weeds are further enhanced by the favourable conditions of the trash cover remaining in the fields after harvest. Though recommended post-emergence tank-mixes are very effective to manage vine weed infestations in young canes, their applications in tall canes is rather difficult, sprayer men getting entangled in the vine development adding to the physical damages to the crop that is already under severe competition. Progress in the work tends to show that management of vine weeds in sugar cane fields would need an integrated approach using innovative techniques and strategies, not depending solely on conventional methods (herbicide application).

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