Bensulfuron-methyl (BSM) has been one of the most widely used herbicides in Chilean rice fields because it controls a wide spectrum of weeds and does not require field drainage for application. However, failures of BSM to control water plantain in rice fields have been noted since 2002. We assessed BSM effects on suspected resistant (CU1 and CU2) and susceptible (AN1) water plantain accessions collected in Chilean rice fields during 2004 and 2005. BSM rates resulting in 50% growth reduction (GR50
) of CU2 and CU1 plants were 12- and 33-fold higher than for AN1 plants, respectively. Acetolactate synthase (ALS) activity assays in vitro suggested resistance in CU1 and CU2 was due to an ALS enzyme with reduced BSM sensitivity compared to the AN1 biotype. Resistance indices (RI), or ratios of the resistant to susceptible I50
values (BSM rate to inhibit ALS-enzyme activity by 50%), were 266 (CU2/AN1) and > 38,462 (CU1/AN1). This agreed with in vivo ALS activity assays where RI were 224 (CU2/AN1) and > 8,533 (CU1/AN1). Resistance levels detected in whole-plant or in vivo ALS activity assays were orders of magnitude lower than those detected in in vitro ALS activity studies suggesting nontarget site mechanisms may have mitigated BSM toxicity. However, a consistent ranking of BSM sensitivity levels (AN1 > CU2 > CU1) throughout all three types of assays suggests resistance is primarily endowed by low target site sensitivity. We conclude that susceptible and resistant water plantain biotypes coexist in Chilean paddies, and the use of integrated weed management involving herbicides with a different mode of action would be imperative to prevent further evolution of resistance to BSM and possibly cross-resistance to other ALS inhibitors. In vitro ALS-enzyme assays provided the best discrimination of resistance levels between biotypes.