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PLoS One. 2012;7(3):e32752. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0032752. Epub 2012 Mar 9.

Seed spillage from grain trailers on road verges during oilseed rape harvest: an experimental survey.

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  • 1Unité Ecologie, Systématique et Evolution, Université Paris-Sud, Orsay, France.



Anthropogenic vectors enhance the natural dispersal capacity of plant seeds significantly in terms of quantity and distance. Human-mediated seed dispersal (i.e. anthropochory) greatly increases the dispersal of crop species across agroecosystems. In the case of oilseed rape (OSR), spillage of seeds from grain trailers during harvest has never been quantified.


Our experimental approach involved establishing 85 seed trap-sites on the road verges of an agricultural area around the grain silo of Selommes (Loir-et-Cher, France). We recorded OSR spillage during harvest and applied a linear model to the data.


The amount of seed spilled was related positively to the area of the OSR fields served by the road, whereas the amount of seed spilled decreased with other variables, such as distance from the trap-site to the verge of the road and to the nearest field. The distance to the grain silo, through local and regional effects, affected seed loss. Local effects from fields adjacent to the road resulted in a cumulative spillage on one-lane roads. On two-lane roads, spillage was nearly constant whatever the distance to the silo due to a mixture of these local effects and of grain trailers that joined the road from more distant fields. From the data, we predicted the number of seeds lost from grain trailers on one road verge in the study area. We predicted a total spillage of 2.05 × 10(6) seeds (± 4.76 × 10(5)) along the road length, which represented a mean of 404 ± 94 seeds per m(2).


Containment of OSR seeds will always be challenging. However, seed spillage could be reduced if grain trailers were covered and filled with less seed. Reducing distances travelled between fields and silos could also limit seed loss.

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