Forest vegetation management

A wildflower meadow, sown to act as an inter-row cover cropCompetition from weeds for resources such as water, nutrients and light is probably the single most important factor preventing successful survival and growth of young trees, particularly on more fertile sites.

The impact of weed competition on growth rate is demonstrated by the images below showing 4 year old cherry trees with and without effective weeding.

Experimental plot showing Cherry with no weeding or mowing. There are no advantages to this.  The disadvantages are competition for moisture with weeds; particularly grasses will kill trees and slow growth.  Trees may be swamped by rank vegetation.  Inspection of trees will be difficult.  Ideal habitat for voles which will gnaw at tree bark. Location: Alice Holt, Hampshire, England. Experiment showing advantages and disadvantages of weeding. Cherry (Prunus avium)  with 100% herbicide treatment.  Keeping the whole planted area totally weed free requires multiple applications of herbicide each year over the whole site.  Advantage it minimises weed competition with the newly planted trees. Location: Alice Holt, Hampshire , England.


Achieving successful, cost-effective weed control among small, vulnerable tree seedlings is not always straightforward.

Work in this programme is therefore focussed on addressing specific weed control problems in new planting, restocking and natural regeneration situations through replicated field experiments. Changes in legislation, commercial withdrawal of herbicide products, herbicide resistance, climate change and the spread of invasive alien and native weeds all make further work in this area vital.


Publications and guidance

The expertise built up in this area over a number of years enables Forest Research to offer free, expert, unbiased, advice on specific weed problems throughout Britain. Comprehensive guidance on the use of herbicides in different situations has been produced.


Pages on the Forestry Commission web site give a wide range of useful information on pesticides.


Publications and guidance on forest vegetation management can be found on our publications pages 



Ian Willoughby


What's of interest

Forestry Commisssion pesticide resources and information

  • Regulations
  • Pesticide reduction
  • Pesticide guidance
  • Pesticide manufacturers
  • Publications
  • Research
  • Products and services

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