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Do Weeds Matter for Biodiversity?

Do Weeds Matter for Biodiversity?

Weeds. A very negative-sounding word for many. However, weeds might not exactly be what we used to think they are. Let me take you on a walk in the countryside, observing fields of barley as we pass them by. In the meanwhile, let’s explore who weeds really are. Let’s find out: do weeds matter for biodiversity? And how much?

I bet only few of you have ever seen a field as the one on the picture. Even as an attentive observer of the farmlands around me, I haven’t seen such a colourful cereal-field before, until I saw this one at my faculty of agricultural sciences. At this test plot, no herbicides have been applied, allowing the weeds to come to full bloom in summer. Maybe those from the older generation will remember such blooming fields from the time when they were young, but it has become a rare sight nowadays.

Barley field full of blooming weeds
Barley field full of blooming weeds. Photo by Naomi Bosch

While the flowers are exceptionally beautiful to look at, this is not an homage to the good old times, when “everything used to be better”. Neither does this text mean to condemn all the farmers of the world who do apply pesticides. In fact, its purpose is to strike up a debate about flowers, bread, bees and biodiversity. About who is and who isn’t paying the cost for the cornflowers and poppies we don’t see around us anymore.

Unwanted weeds

There is no doubt that the blue and red spots of flowers in the field of cereals on the picture are a pretty sight. But this doesn’t change the fact that those are weeds. Weeds are any plants that grow on the field along with a crop, that haven’t been sown there intentionally.

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