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Invasive Plants and Weeds Group

Invasive plants known as weed pests, grow aggressively, spreading and displacing other plants, jeopardizing the health and sustainability of native forest and rangeland ecosystems and urban forests. Invasive plants are known to dominate whole areas spreading to the point of disrupting plant communities or ecosystems.

Active Research Projects

The following professors below are focusing their research on the interactions of invasive plants, soil chemistry, weed management practices, cover crops, the ecosystem, and herbicide resistant weeds.

Jacob Barney - Current Projects:

  • Quantifying the ecological impacts of (multiple) invasive plants
  • Identifying the efficacy, off-target effects, and economic costs of long-term invasive plant management
  • Determining how sub-lethal ecological and herbicide stress “memory” can be passed on to future generations
  • Determining the most effective restoration of biologically-controlled tree-of-heaven stands to native plant communities
  • Identifying the plant functional traits of cover crops that minimize weeds and maximize soil microbial diversity and ecosystem function
  • Producing novel science/art collaborations that express the ecological interactions of invasive plants and the roles of humans

Jeffrey Derr – Current Projects:

  • Biology and management of Japanese stiltgrass
  • Control of the perennial sedges yellow nutsedge and kyllinga
  • Germination and control of annual broadleaf weeds in container production, with a focus on long-stalk Phyllanthus, chamberbitter, mulberryweed, tasselflower, and eclipta
  • Selective control of Virginia buttonweed, pennywort, and wild violet

Michael Flessner - Current Projects:

Cover Crops for Weed Management

Cover crops are well-known for their soil health benefits however, their ability to suppress weeds is not fully known. High-residue cover crops have the potential to suppress winter and summer annuals. Research efforts are currently focused on suppression of Palmer amaranth and other problematic weeds and examining rolled versus not rolled cover crops and planting green versus brown. 

Harvest Weed Seed Control

Harvest weed seed control (HWSC) is a newer weed management practice that focuses on destroying seeds that will become weeds in future seasons with harvest operations. Research efforts here are aimed at comparing different types of HWSC to control three major weeds in Virginia: Palmer amaranth, common ragweed, and Italian ryegrass.         

Herbicide Resistant Weed Management

Herbicide resistant weeds are a serious threat to agricultural productivity in Virginia. The instance of herbicide resistance is only projected to increase. Documenting cases of resistance in the Commonwealth and developing best management practice is a large research effort of the lab. Best management practices against resistance are rotation of herbicide mechanisms-of-action, rotation of herbicide-tolerance seed traits, implementation of integrated weed management strategies such as cover crops or harvest weed seed control, and evaluation of alternative herbicide options.