A Brief History of the European Weed Research Society
WYBO VAN DER ZWEEP
Secretary, EWRC 1960-75, Scientific Secretary, EWRS 1975 - 1980
Scientific Secretary, EWRS 1982-1993.
The Precursor, the European Weed Research Council (EWRC)
In May 1958 a meeting of weed scientists in Ghent set up an international working group to accelerate progress in solving the problems caused by weeds. The first outcome was to a conference at Stuttgart-Hohenheim where Project Groups on bracken, wild oats and methods of herbicide evaluation were organised and the EWRC was established at a second meeting at Oxford in 1960. Each country was allowed to nominate an official representative on the Council and by 1975 there were 24 of them plus co-opted members from Israel and the Lebanon. In addition there was an advisory panel of 4 scientists from agrochemical manufacturers to reflect the increasing importance of herbicides. Close interaction with industry has continued and the Presidency of EWRS alternates between industrial and non-industrial members. The 1960 meeting also decided to start the journal Weed Research. This was made possible by the generosity of a number of organisations and companies who contributed to a Guarantee Fund to cover the financial risk.
Council meetings were held annually in different countries and were followed by excursions to research institutes and farms. They provided important opportunities for scientists from around Europe to exchange views, information and experience.
Symposia were perhaps the most important means of bringing people together. Four major symposia, primarily on herbicides, were held in France in collaboration with COLUMA (Comité de Lutte contre les Mauvaises Herbes) and there were also 4 on aquatic weeds, 2 on Mediterranean weed problems and one on parasitic weeds.
Research Groups were established to exchange information and undertake collaborative projects on:- annual grass weeds; aquatic weeds; bracken (Pteridium aquilinum); weed problems of mountain areas (with FAO); Equisetum spp; parasitic and hemiparasitic weeds.
Co-operation with other organisations was extensive. There was co-operation with the British Weed Control Council as well as with COLUMA and FAO and conferences were held jointly with the International Sugarbeet Research Institute and the International Union of Biological Control (on parasitic weeds). There was collaborative research with the International Society of Horticultural Science and a joint committee of the Herbicide Evaluation Project Group and EPPO (European Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization) was formed.
Publications were seen as essential to stimulating weed control research. All symposia produced Proceedings and Weed Research rapidly became established as an international journal. By accepting papers in English, French or German it was accessible to virtually all European scientists and it has increasingly attracted contributions from all over the world.
Education and Training was encouraged through an Education Committee.
The transition from EWRC to EWRS
As the activities of EWRC extended it became apparent that a society with membership open to all individuals and organisations who wished to participate would be more effective. A steering committee began work to develop plans for the new society in December 1973.
The European Weed Research Society
The new society formally came into existence and held its first General Assembly on 3 December 1975 during the Symposium in Paris organised jointly with COLUMA on the Status, Biology and Control of Grassweeds. The legal seat of the Society was in the Netherlands but the Secretariat was initially based in the UK after which it spent periods in France, Germany and now is spread over three countries. The object of the Society, as described in the first Constitution, is to promote and encourage weed research and control technology in Europe for the benefit of the community as a whole.
The Constitution remained unchanged for 10 years. The Governing Body was the Council composed of nominated national delegates, elected members, officers of the Society and co-opted members. As over 40 members were involved, this arrangement proved to be unwieldy, so when the Constitution was revised in 1984-86 the Council was disbanded and the Executive Committee (EXCOM) was given total responsibility for the Society's affairs. National representatives were retained but were elected and were given different responsibilities.
The Scientific Programme
The Scientific Committee (SCICOM) is responsible for the scientific programme of the Society. Of the 7 Research Groups inherited from EWRC, only the Annual Grassweeds Group was really concerned with arable agriculture so an initial task of the SCICOM was to stimulate the development of others. By the end of 1981 there were Groups for Herbicide Application, Herbicides in the Soil, Laboratory Biotests, Mediterranean Weeds and Environmental Effects on Herbicide Performance in addition to 5 of the 7 EWRC groups. Also Joint Committees were established with the European Association for Potato Research (EAPR) for the control of volunteer potatoes and with EPPO regarding the evaluation and registration of herbicides. The Education Committee, initially a Standing Committee reporting directly to EXCOM. was reconstituted as a Working Group of SCICOM.
Working Groups and Symposia. The early activities of Working Groups included workshops, ring-testing, collaborative experiments, surveys and method evaluation. The Herbicide - Soil and Education Working Groups produced books with commercial publishers which generated income for the Society. The Aquatic Weeds Group followed the 4 EWRC symposia with others in Amsterdam in 1978 and Novi Sad in 1982. Similarly the Mediterranean Weeds Working Group followed the 1966 and 1971 EWRC Symposia with one in Oeiras in 1984. There were also more general Symposia on Different Methods of Weed Control and Their Integration at Uppsala in 1977 and The Influence of Different Factors on the Development and Control of Weeds in Mainz in 1979. Symposia organised together with other bodies included the quadrennial Weed Biology, Ecology and Systematics with COLUMA and Influence of Environmental Factors on Herbicide Performance and Crop and Weed Biology with the Association of Applied Biologists and the Society of Chemical Industry at Oxford in 1983.
SCICOM Evolves. In 1985 not only was the Constitution amended but the operation of SCICOM was revised. Weed research was divided into logically connected parts termed Main Subject Areas (MSAs) which included the existing and new Working Groups. EXCOM appointed a chairman for each MSA who became a member of SCICOM. Symposia were to be based on one or more MSAs.
The following decade saw a substantial increase in activities so only a few can be mentioned here. Modelling approaches became widespread and stimulated a cross MSA Workshop on models in Weed Science held in Wageningen in 1987. The Weed Control in Maize MSA introduced the 'Weed Tour'as an activity, in Austria in 1987, Bavaria in 1988 and Hungary in 1996. The Education and Training Group held its first training course in Zaragoza in 1990 organised in conjunction with CIHEAM. In 1994 the European Union funded a proposal on biological weed control which included many members of the Biological Control MSA, the first time a EWRS activity has attracted EU funding.
In addition to meetings organised within MSAs, there were Symposia in Stuttgat-Hohenheim in 1986 (Economic Weed Control), Wageningen in 1988 (Factors Affecting Herbicidal Activity and Selectivity), Helsinki, 1990 (Integrated Weed Management in Cereals), Braunschweig, 1993 (Quantitative approaches in Weed and Herbicide Research), Budapest, 1995 (Challenges in Weed Science in a Changing Europe), Poznan 1997, Basel 1999 and the Society organised jointly with IWSS, the 2nd International Weed Control Congress in Copenhagen in 1996.
Response to political change
The Budapest and Poznan Symposia showed the Society's increasing concern with eastern Europe and there have also been training programmes in Romania (1994), Belarus (1995) and Russia (1997). As a result of a policy to facilitate recruitment, over 35% of the membership now live in former COMECON countries.
This concern was one of the factors that forced further evolution of the Society's scientific activities. The policy of concentrating on specialist symposia was changed as the need to support eastern European activities requires more general conferences. By the end of 1996 the size of SCICOM was reduced by consolidating MSAs, now renamed Working Groups, to 7. Minor changes made to the Constitution in 1999 included the adoption of the Euro as the formal currency.
Communication, liaison and dissemination of information
Weed Research was a well established journal of EWRC and it has continued to be vital to the Society both for scientific communication and as a source of income. Since 1994 it has been produced in English only. The Newsletter was initially almost literally a letter but it expanded following the changes in the Constitution and SCICOM in 1985-6. It now reports planned and completed activities of Working Groups and includes abstracts from workshops and other meetings. National representatives provide occasional reports for the Newsletter and some include summaries of theses. Recent issues plus other Society information and job vacancies are available on the Society's website, http://www.ewrs.org/.
This note would be incomplete without acknowledging the huge voluntary effort of weed scientists throughout Europe in promoting and developing EWRC and EWRS. We hope this brief account will make those who have been most actively involved feel that their efforts have been worthwhile.