Weed with Roundup immunity galloping across state

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version by John Woodmansee
Chronicle-Tribune, May 26

 

A herbicide-resistant weed that arrived in Indiana two years ago isn't standing still.

Marestail populations that are immune to glyphosate were first identified in 2002 in the southeast Indiana counties of Jackson, Bartholomew, Clark, Jefferson and Jennings.

Recent field inspections by Purdue University researchers found the weeds in another 15 counties to the north and west, said Bill Johnson, Purdue Extension weed specialist.

Glyphosate is the active ingredient in many herbicides, including Roundup.

Indiana farmers annually plant millions of acres in crops genetically modified to withstand Roundup applications. This year alone, 88 percent of the state's projected
5.45 million acres of soybeans are expected to be Roundup Ready varieties.

"We had a few isolated fields in southeast Indiana that were showing poor control of marestail with glyphosate in 2001 and 2002," Johnson said. "By late 2002 we'd confirmed glyphosate resistance in four counties, and we highly suspected it in six additional counties.

"We did some extensive field surveying in the fall of 2003 and now believe we've found glyphosate-resistant marestail in about 19 counties, mostly in southeastern Indiana," Johnson said. "We've found it as far north as Wells County, as far west as Montgomery County and as far south as Perry County."

Marestail -- also known as horseweed -- is a thin-leafed annual weed that can grow to more than 6 feet tall if undisturbed. The weed produces seed in July and August but can emerge at almost any time during the year.

"This weed is problematic for a number of reasons," Johnson said. "First and foremost, the weed's biology allows it to behave not only as a winter annual but also as a summer annual. I'm convinced that this weed can germinate and grow any time the soil is not frozen."

He said the second reason marestail is troublesome is that it already has developed resistance to ALS inhibitors and triazines.

"So we're running out of effective tools to manage the weed," Johnson said.

Aceto-lactase synthase (ALS) inhibitors kill weeds by preventing them from producing essential amino acids necessary for growth. Triazine herbicides work by interrupting a weed's photosynthesis.

Marestail's ability to reproduce poses a third challenge, Johnson said.

"The seed of this weed spreads rapidly. Because it's so adaptable, the weed easily could become a predominant weed on our landscape, much as giant ragweed, giant foxtail and velvetleaf have done," he said.

Farmers are relying too much on glyphosate-based herbicides, according to Johnson. If farmers begin noticing glyphosate-resistant marestail in their fields, one option is to utilize 2,4-D in their burndown applications next year.

"We know that 2,4-D is very effective on these weeds, so farmers need to use it in their burndown if they have marestail in their field, regardless of whether they think it is glyphosate-resistant," Johnson said.

John Woodmansee is the agriculture and natural resources educator and director of the Purdue Cooperative Extension Office in Grant County.

Originally published Wednesday, May 26, 2004

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