Abstract Control of competing vegetation is essential for the successful establish ment of tree seedlings in nurseries and direct-sown woodland; this usually requires potentially expensive hand weeding or post-sowing preemergence herbicides. In order to identify suitable herbicides, two container experiments tested the response of 12 broadleaved tree and shrub species to napropamide and pendimethalin applied preemergence. Most species tolerated rates adequate for controlling many annual weed species although Rhamnus cathartica L. (buckthorn) and Alnus glutinosa (L.) Gaertn. (alder) were damaged by all rates of napropamide. A study of application date of napropamide and pendimethalin applied post-sowing to Fraxinus excelsior L. (ash) in containers showed that pendimethalin was damaging if applied when seeds were germinating or seedlings emerging, but napropamide was tolerated at all growth stages. A field experiment tested the tolerance of ten species sown in seedbeds to napropamide alone and in mixture with pendimethalin. Results generally confirmed the indications of tolerance from the container experiments. Applications of 2 kg a.i. ha–1 napropamide plus 2 kg a.i. ha–1 pendimethalin appeared to be safe o
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