Advantages and Disadvantages of Weeds: Different definitions have been advanced in a bid to explain the meaning of weeds. Some people have described it as a plant that is not deliberately cultivated and thus is flourishing in a place where it is not wanted. While there are various perspectives as to what weeds are such as referring to very annoying people or another name for cannabis, we are interested in weeds in the agricultural context.
In agricultural parlance, weed means an undesired plant which is growing in the wrong place. These plants are usually stubborn and grow very quickly. They are also known to outgrow and suffocate the original cultivated plants. These plants also affect crop yield by striving against the desired or cultivated crops for minerals, light and water. The benefits of some of these plants are yet to be ascertained.
Research has revealed that there is an estimated 250,000 varieties of plants in the world. 3 percent of this number which amounts to 8000 species are categorized as weeds.
Weeds are generally viewed as unfavourable so it is a bit of a surprise to hear one talk about the advantages of weeds. However, in this piece, we shall be revealing some unexpected benefits of weeds as well as the disadvantages of weed.
Advantages or Benefits of Weeds
The thought of weeds amounting to any good sounds out of place. Our usual perception of weeds is that they are useless plants. Plants categorized as weeds are usually uprooted or destroyed without a thought as to how removing them will affect the environment.
Besides, uprooting or destroying weeds does not guarantee that worse weeds will not grow in their place and pose more challenges to the farmer or landowner. It is high time we stopped looking at the downsides of weeds only and explore the economic and other benefits that weeds can provide. The advantages of weeds include the following:
1. For Beautification: Certain varieties of weeds are excellent for improving the aesthetic value of your surroundings. This is possible due to the beautiful forms and colours of these weeds. They are also used for fencing for example cactus.
2. Preparation of the Land for other Desired Crops: It may prove to be a difficult or futile task cultivating commercial crops in certain places or lands. This could be because of the nature of the land or ground. For instance, soil heavily washed away by erosion, parts of land damaged by spills of lava from volcanoes as well as lands very close to tarred roads can be a very difficult places for plants to grow but weeds easily grow there. When the weeds have taken root in these places, it prepares the ground to accept the desired crops to be planted and take root too.
3. Weeds Provide Forage for Livestock: Different types of weeds can be used to feed livestock. In most cases, they are best as food for animals when they are still young and are yet to bear fruits or seeds. Some of the weeds that can be used as food for livestock include: rescue grass also known as Bromus unioloides, Mouse barley or Hordeum murinum as well as Erodium cicutarium aka Heronbill.
4. Weeds Help to Strengthen the Ground:
In areas of land where water flows over the surface of the ground into streams or rivers, it is easy for such land surfaces to become weak overtime and wear off from the force of the flowing or rushing water.
Weeds like Golden guinea everlasting also known as Helichrysum argyrophyllum as well as Chrysocoma tenuifolia which is Bitterkaroo can be planted or allowed to grow in these areas. The stubborn roots of these plants help to hold the soil together and prevent it from washing away in the face of high torrents. They hold up the soil against other elements like wind and erosion.
5. Protein Source: Seeds from certain weed plants are sources of protein which can be included in meals to boost the nutrient content.
6. Excellent Location for Honeycombs: Certain weeds attract swarms of bees to themselves because of their flowers. These bees drink from the nectars of these flowers and also produce honey. Depending on the plant, some weeds can attract more bees for honey production than others.
7. Absorption of Harmful Substances: Research has shown that certain plants have the uncommon ability to soak up different forms of harmful chemicals present in water. These chemicals such as crude oil spilled into water in oil rich communities, pollute the water killing fishes and other living things in the water.
It renders the water useless for other purposes such as washing, cooking and even bathing. Weeds such as the Water Hyacinth can be used to absorb all those harmful substances and restore the potability of the water.
8. Source of Compost: Unwanted plants aka. weeds, can be used as mulch to control water evaporation due to excessive sunlight and even as compost for the desired cultivated crops. Care must be taken to ensure that the weeds do not germinate and encroach on the desired cultivated crops.
9. Indicator of Soil pH: Some special variety of weeds such as Spergula arvensis have the exceptional characteristic of detecting and showing the pH level of soils. They can be used to find out if the soil has low pH level, water level and compaction.
10. For Medicinal Use: There are also medicinal uses of weeds. Some weeds like satyanashi has healing properties. The oil from the seed of this plant is proven to be powerful against skin diseases. Snake bites can be treated with Leucas aspera, a medicinal weed. Some weeds also serve as herbs for cooking and treatment of minor injuries.
11. For Commercial Purposes: There are also economic benefits attributed to weeds. Weeds such as saccharum specie are money making plants that can be sold to thatch makers. Some other types of weeds have quality oil content that can be extracted and sold to make gains.
Tagetes minuta and nuts of Lavala are grown for their good smell and serve as raw material in perfume and incense making industries.
Disadvantages of Weeds
When you talk about weeds, the first thing that comes to mind is unwanted plants that are useless and should be done away with. So here are some of the reasons for the age long dislike for weeds:
1. Reduction in Farm Produce: Weeds wrestle with farm crops for soil nutrients, space, water, sunlight and air. Due to their powerful nature, they usually overcome the desired cultivated crops soaking up all the nutrient, water and light and choking them to death. Thus while the farm crops wither from lack of nutrient, the weeds thrive and flourish.
2. Increased Cost of Production for Farm Produce: A lot of money is expended towards weed control. This increases the cost of cultivation and is reflected in the overall price of the farm produce.
Reduced Quality of Farm Produce
Often times, weeds get mixed up with farm produce in spite of efforts of farm hands and the farmer to separate them. This reduces the wholesomeness of the farm produce and affects the price and patronage of the farm produce. Weeds also affect farm animals who may fall sick from eating poisonous seeds of the weeds.
Weeds are able to survive the worst conditions due to their strong roots and ability to resprout easily. They do not require any special soil condition or abundance of nutrient to thrive. Their tiny and plentiful seeds also mean that they can easily be carried around by air, animals or water for fast pollination. Rather than destroy weeds, it is advised that they be put to good use. The mere existence of weeds is beneficial to the ecosystem.