, Volume 24, Issue 6, pp 735-747
Date: 25 Mar 2009

Effects of landscape composition on spread of an herbicide-resistant weed

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Abstract

Widespread adoption of genetically modified glyphosate-resistant (GR) crops in the US has dramatically changed the agricultural landscape to one that selects for establishment and spread of weedy species resistant to glyphosate, a commonly applied herbicide. Weed species that possess the means to readily spread across the landscape will be contained by weed management strategies that limit weed establishment and prevent seed set. An empirically-derived simulation model was developed to explore GR Conyza canadensis spread in relation to characteristics of the agricultural landscape. C. canadensis seeds are carried in the wind and move among fields and therefore, access high quality habitat (GR crops) at long distances. The baseline scenario was the current GR adoption levels in many US agricultural landscapes with corn and soybean rotated annually. Alternate scenarios examined the interacting effects of management uniformity (GR crop adoption) and increased landscape richness (three crops: corn, soybean, alfalfa, instead of two), over a 10 year simulation period. When landscape uniformity increased (increased GR corn adoption), 3× more fields would be infested with the resistant biotype and a specific field would have up to 24% greater likelihood of being infested compared to the current GR crop adoption levels. Increased landscape richness (adding alfalfa as a third crop) slightly decreased GR C. canadensis abundance. Reduced GR management uniformity by way of reducing GR soybeans to half their current adoption levels had the greatest impact on spread and prevented GR C. canadensis from reaching high abundance. Large-scale reliance on glyphosate for weed management has increased high-fitness habitat and will result in rapid spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds. Without significant reductions of glyphosate use and without spatial coordination of weed and crop management practices, GR weeds will continue to spread rapidly and impact agricultural practices in areas reliant on glyphosate.