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The U.S. Department of Agriculture–Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) has been a leader in weed science research covering topics ranging from the development and use of integrated weed management (IWM) tactics to basic mechanistic studies, including biotic resistance of desirable plant communities and herbicide resistance. ARS weed scientists have worked in agricultural and natural ecosystems, including agronomic and horticultural crops, pastures, forests, wild lands, aquatic habitats, wetlands, and riparian areas. Through strong partnerships with academia, state agencies, private industry, and numerous federal programs, ARS weed scientists have made contributions to discoveries in the newest fields of robotics and genetics, as well as the traditional and fundamental subjects of weed–crop competition and physiology and integration of weed control tactics and practices. Weed science at ARS is often overshadowed by other research topics; thus, few are aware of the long history of ARS weed science and its important contributions. This review is the result of a symposium held at the Weed Science Society of America’s 62nd Annual Meeting in 2022 that included 10 separate presentations in a virtual Weed Science Webinar Series. The overarching themes of management tactics (IWM, biological control, and automation), basic mechanisms (competition, invasive plant genetics, and herbicide resistance), and ecosystem impacts (invasive plant spread, climate change, conservation, and restoration) represent core ARS weed science research that is dynamic and efficacious and has been a significant component of the agency’s national and international efforts. This review highlights current studies and future directions that exemplify the science and collaborative relationships both within and outside ARS. Given the constraints of weeds and invasive plants on all aspects of food, feed, and fiber systems, there is an acknowledged need to face new challenges, including agriculture and natural resources sustainability, economic resilience and reliability, and societal health and well-being.
Dioscorea bulbifera is a serious invader of various ecosystems in Florida, where plants generated by its two morphotypes climb aggressively and smother supporting vegetation. There is a dearth of published research on its invasive biological attributes including vine growth and biomass production by plants generated from bulbils. Herein, we assessed these parameters in common garden studies by planting bulbils from four biomass categories (PBBCs I–IV) of both morphotypes. Vine lengths, longevity-based growth rates (VLGR), biomass, and quantities of leaves and daughter bulbils in both morphotypes showed positive correlation with the biomass of planted parental bulbils. This indicated similarity between corresponding attributes in two morphotypes. Total vine length showed strong positive correlation with VLGR, biomass, and quantities of leaves and bulbils. Overall vine longevity among plants from PBBCs I–IV did not significantly differ whereas the total vine lengths, VLGRs, number of branches, and quantities of leaves and bulbils increased with the biomass of the parental bulbils. Plants recruited by smaller bulbils allocated more biomass to leaves and tubers compared to stems and bulbils, whereas the plants recruited by larger bulbils allocated more biomass to leaves and bulbils compared to tubers and stems. Higher proportion of biomass allocation to leaves and bulbils presumably ensures immediate faster growth, longer vines, and a greater number of daughter bulbils for future recruitment of new plants. Vine length (associated with faster growth rate, capable of blanketing supporting structures and producing large quantities of bulbils) has been noted as the primary invasive biological attribute that facilitates D. bulbifera's status as a noxious exotic weed in Florida. Control measure that can reduce vine length should reduce or eliminate the invasive behavior of D. bulbifera in Florida.
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