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Fundamentals of Weed Science

Fundamentals of Weed Science
Robert C. Zimdahl
San Diego, Calif.: Academic Press
Publication Date: 

Second edition.
cloth, 556 p.,  $59.95

In the preface, the author states that the public does not understand what weed scientists do; hence, scientists and educators need to be very clear in informing the public about the problems of weeds and proposed solutions. Unfortunately, this book will not help the public, no matter what their level of interest or understanding. Perhaps the author's feeling that the public is in awe and afraid of science might explain the flippant style and the superficial and irrelevant information, which may be attempts to make the text palatable to a hostile and ignorant audience.

While this book claims not to be a weed control handbook, the author is most competent in presenting material on herbicides, discussing their classification, chemical nature, specific crop use, methods of application and effect on soil and people. His discussion of the use of herbicides in ancient cultures is very interesting and gives a perspective on man's struggles to make plants grow where and how he wants.

Unfortunately, the first part of the book with more general topics related to weed control and general plant growth is poorly written. Statements such as:

"Latin is difficult, but difficulty should be dismissed as an objection not worthy of one engaged in higher education. Like most worthy goals, obtaining an education will not be achieved without some effort. Latin is dead, but therein lies its advantage as a medium to name things."

demean the intelligence of readers. The author misses the historical reason for the use of Latin in taxonomy. Again the historical perspective is missed when he states that "weeds" were used in ethnobotany as food or medicine. Obviously, the plants in question were not regarded as weeds at that time. One wonders what the author had in mind with a statement such as "The individual cannot survive for long independent of its population, nor can a population survive without individuals."

Irrelevant information such as a comment that the manatee resembles U.S. President Grover Cleveland or a comparison between plant competition and football where teams compete for glory or even for money is ridiculous in this book. The discussion of the C3, C4 carbon fixation pathways is very confusing. The suggestion by the author for the reader to seek a good textbook on plant physiology is an excellent one.

The author's query "What makes some plants so capable of growing where they are not desired?" is answered in his own first chapter. In the beginning there were no weeds; a weed is simply a plant that is growing where man doesn't want it.

This book is not going to appeal to either the layman or the student, although for the student there are good bibliographies included in each chapter.

— Dr. Luretta Spiess, Master Gardener at the Chicago Botanic Garden.