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Understanding how weeds are resistant to herbicides
Date:8/5/2009

e know we're going to get continued resistance to other herbicides which can affect other genes. And we don't want to spend two years culling to find that gene every time. This is a way that we can get all of the genes at once."

All of the data is publically available. "There's a website where you can go and get the 43 million base pairs of sequence. So anyone can get it and use that information."

Tranel said that identifying weed resistance is an immediate outcome of having the genetic data. "Once we obtain the sequence of a resistance gene, we can develop molecular tests that are specific for the resistance mutation. "We can take a sample of waterhemp from a field that was sprayed and the waterhemp hasn't died and we can confirm whether it is resistant or not because we know the gene sequence and we know the mutation and the mechanism."

Having the complete genomic data on waterhemp will help scientists not only to identify but also to understand resistance and how resistance evolves. "If you understand how it evolves, that can help you devise strategies that cannot prevent it from evolving, but at least slow the rate at which it happens," said Tranel.

"If you use the same herbicide year after year, you're exerting selection pressure -- you're selecting for that rare plant or mutation that will survive. When you do that, and you kill all of the siblings that are weaker, the mutant survives and all of its progenies will survive and that's how resistance evolves. It's evolution in action," said Tranel.

This genomic data will also help in answering broader questions about weeds such as: Why are some plants weeds? What makes a plant a weed? Is it certain genes? Is it the way the genes are expressed? "These are questions that 10 years ago we couldn't address because we didn't know the genes. Now we're at the point where we can start doing that and on a broad scale. We can do this with waterhemp and we can do this with another
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Contact: Debra Levey Larson
dlarson@illinois.edu
217-244-2880
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert

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