Weed seed predation

Several research projects are centred on the theme ‘weed seed predation’. The reason is that mortality of newly produced weed seeds contributes to long-term weed control.

Numerous modelling studies have indicated that mortality of newly produced weed seeds is one of the most influential parameters in the life-cycle of a weed. By destroying these seeds, seed input to the seed bank is prevented and, when continued over multiple years, will lead to seed bank depletion and a gradual reduction in weed seedlings in future years.

One way to eliminate freshly shed seeds is via seed predation by naturally occurring seed eaters. Evidence that seed predators, also called granivores, are involved in weed control comes from seed balance studies and from direct estimates. A large proportion (70-99%) of the weed seeds produced in arable fields does not emerge as seedlings, nor can it be recovered from the soil seed bank. Direct estimates suggest losses up to 90%.

Very diverse groups of animals are known to consume seeds, including both vertebrates (i.e. birds and rodents) and invertebrates (e.g. slugs, ants, ground beetles, crickets). These groups differ in mobility, food and habitat preferences, and population dynamics, and may therefore respond very differently to farming practices. It is therefore important to know which animals are the dominant seed predators and how their populations can be maintained or enhanced.

Weed seeds on the soil surface; the granivorous carabid Harpalus rufipes; the granivorous rodent Apodemus sylvaticus.

There is considerable spatial and temporal variation in seed predation rates. Detecting patterns and elucidate the causes of variability can help to understand and more efficiently utilise seed predation in biological weed control.


General objectives of our research include;
- quantifying annual seed predation rates and the effects on weed population dynamics,
- quantifying spatial and temporal variability in seed predation and in seed predator populations,
- identifying and removing constraints to seed predators,
- and optimize farming practices in order to maintain or enhance seed predator populations

Faculty and staff

Friederike de Mol
Rosa Minderlen
Ingolf Gliege

Former students

PhD students
Heike Pannwitt PhD 2020 - The impact of seed predation on weed population dynamics; a modelling approach 

Daniel Daedlow PhD 2015 - About the contribution of seed predation on weed demography

Valentina Atanackovic  PhD 2013 – Understanding constraints and potentials of weed management through seed predation by harvester ants

Barbara Baraibar PhD 2011 – Seed predators and weed seed predation for weed control in winter cereals

BSc and MSc students

Eric Höft MSc 2016 - Quantifying the effect of seed predation on the population growth rate of Echinochloa crus-galli

Dennis Conrad BSc 2016 - Covercropping in maize and its influence on biological weed control

Christoph Seifert MSc 2015 - Comparison of three methods to measure weed seed predation in arable fields

Anne Eckardt BSc 2013 - Overwintering of carabid beetles

Wencke Ladwig MSc 2012 - Impact of carnivorous beetles on seed predation by granivore beetles in winter wheat

Katrin Schönherr BSc 2012 – Entwicklung eines Tests, um den Grad des Fleischfressens von Laufkäfern zu messen

Hans-Heinrich Döscher BSc 2012 – Die Quantifizierung der Samenprädation von granivoren Laufkäfern mit und ohne Beeinflussung durch die Anwesenheit von carnivoren Laufkäfern

Tabea Sommer BSc 2011– Samenprädation im Winterweizen auf ökologisch und konventionell bewirtschafteten Feldern

Wencke Ladwig BSc 2010 – Beobachtungen zur Samenprädation im Feld mit IR-Fotografie

Mayte Schwalm MSc 2009 – Einfluss verschiedener Bodenbearbeitungsintensitäten auf Unkrautsamenfraß im norddeutschen Tiefland

Kerstin Geißler MSc 2008 – Zum Samenfraß von Unkräutern in Winterraps and Winterweizen am Beispiel von Galium aparine und Thlaspi arvense

Hannes Kreye BSc 2008 – Beeinflussen Vertebraten-Ausschluss-Käfigen die Samenprädationsraten von Laufkäfern?

Stefan Babenschneider 2008 – Abtötung der Keimfähigkeit der Samen von Lolium perenne und Brassica napus unter Berücksichtigung gleichbleibender Fraßpräferenzen von Samenprädatoren

Daniel Daedlow MSc 2007- Untersuchungen zum Fraß von Ackerunkrautsamen in Sommerweizen und in angrenzenden ökologischen Infrastrukturen