Researchers at K-State University have made a breakthrough discovery in understanding how weeds have developed resistance to glyphosate. Meaning even if you applied an amount much higher than the recommended dose of glyphosate, the plants would not be killed. According to the scientists, there may be hope to disrupt the process by which troublesome pigweeds like common waterhemp and Palmar amaranth become resistant to the popular herbicide. I’m told, the process occurs quickly, which is causing concerns for the continued spread of resistance across the country and into other weeds. Interestingly, glyphosate-resistant Palmar amaranth plants carry their target gene in hundreds of copies. Fortunately, researchers have discovered that the genetic makeup of resistant weeds is different. From what I understand, the normal genetic material in all organisms – including humans – is found in long, linear DNA molecules, called chromosomes, but in this case, the glyphosate target gene, along with other genes actually escaped from the chromosomes and formed a separate, self-replicating circular DNA structure or (eccDNA). Because of the presence of hundreds of this circular DNA in each cell, the amount of the enzyme is also abundant. Therefore, the plant is not effected by glyphosate application and thus the weed is resistant to the herbicide. The researchers believe that once a weed has acquired the circular DNA, the resistance may evolve as quickly as in one generation. They fear that these circular DNAs can be incorporated into the linear chromosome, which if that happens, could make resistance to glyphosate permanent. Armed with their new knowledge, the researchers can now begin work on developing strategies to negate resistance in weeds. The research team notes that farmers should incorporate best management strategies — such as rotating herbicides and crops — to reduce weed pressure. This may allow evolving resistance to dissipate. Ultimately, K-State researchers along with many others in the agricultural world are promoting “Do Not Abuse Glyphosate.” Use the recommended integrated weed management strategies so that we do not lose the option of using glyphosate for the sustainability of agriculture across the U.S. Research article appeared in the March 12 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The bottom line is that the researchers are promoting the use but not the abuse of glyphosate (Source: ksre.k-state)

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