Two separate field experiments were conducted to quantify the degree of plant-to-plant outcrossing and pollen-mediated gene flow (PMGF) in wild oat. The purpose of the study was to determine the extent to which pollen movement could contribute to the spread of herbicide resistance in this species. In both experiments, an acetyl-CoA carboxylase inhibitor–resistant (R) wild oat genotype (UM1) was used as the pollen donor and a susceptible (S) genotype (UM5) was used as the pollen receptor. Hybrid progeny resulting from a cross between UM1 and UM5 were identified using the herbicide resistance trait as a marker. In the plant-to-plant outcrossing experiment, single UM5 plants were closely surrounded by 20 homozygous R UM1 plants in hills. By screening seed from the S parent for resistance, outcrossing was determined to range from 0 to 12.3%, with a mean of 5.2% over 10 hills. In the PMGF experiment, single homozygous R UM1 plants were surrounded by UM5 plants arranged in a hexagonal pattern at low and high densities (total of 19 and 37 wild oat plants m−2), growing within spring wheat and flax crops. In the wheat crop, mean wild oat outcrossing was 0.08 and 0.05% at low and high densities, respectively. In the less competitive flax, corresponding outcrossing values were 0.07 and 0.16% at low and high densities, respectively. Distance from the pollen source was a significant factor only for the high-density planting arrangement in flax. Up to 77 R hybrid seeds were recovered from 6 m2 in the PMGF experiment, indicating that PMGF contributes to the evolution of resistance in wild oat populations. However, the contribution of pollen movement to resistance evolution and the spread of resistance in wild oat populations would be relatively small when compared with R seed production and dispersal from a resistant plant.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This manuscript was reviewed by six colleagues whose recommendations varied widely. Lack of repetition was a major concern. The authors address the problem in the last paragraph of the results section. Factors favoring publication included the worldwide importance of wild oats, the minimal data on gene flow in the species, and the fact that the results are consistent with those of other studies cited in this manuscript. The points raised by reviewers who did not favor publication, especially the role of the environment in pollen production and viability, are acknowledged.
R. L. Zimdahl, Editor