In a collaborative research project, a team of scientists have conducted a nationwide assessment of factors contributing to an epidemic of herbicide-resistant weeds in the United Kingdom (UK).
Their paper was published in Nature: Evolution and Ecology this week. It paints a crystal-clear picture of rapidly rising weed resistance – and a clear correlation with herbicide use, despite the absence of , herbicide-resistant crops in the UK.
The research team looked at the populationof black-grass (pictured), a major problem for farmers in the region, across 70 English farms. They found that 80% of the sampled populations were “highly-resistant to all herbicides” (emphasis added). Plus, this resistance was “primarily dictated by the historical intensity of herbicide use…no other management factors had been successful in modifying this resistance risk,” said weed biologist Paul Neve (Rothamsted Research, 2018).
They found that there was no benefit to mixing chemicals or rotating applications of chemicals, and the development of resistance was directly linked to the number of herbicide applications on a certain field.
In other words, “a new strategy to protect crops needs to be developed that reduces farmers’ reliance on chemicals” (Davidson, 2018).
A short video explaining the study by Weed Biologist Paul Neve is available here.
Gordon Davidson, “Weeds growing out of control,” The Scottish Farmer, February 19, 2018.
Helen Hicks, David Comont, Shaun R. Cotts, Laura Crook, Richard Hull, Ken Norris, Paul Neve, Dylan Z. Childs, Robert P. Freckleton, “The factors driving evolved herbicide resistance at a national scale,” Nature Ecology & Evolution, Vol 2, February 12, 2018, doi:10.1038/s41559-018-0470-1.
Rothamsted Research, “Weeds out of Control,” February 12, 2018.