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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.
Giant reed (Arundo donax) is an invasive weed that is native to the Old World. Tens of thousands of hectares of riparian habitat in the Rio Grande Basin (RGB) in Texas and Mexico have been heavily affected by invasions of Arundo. Additionally, many other watersheds across the southwestern United States have also been affected. Giant reed is being targeted for biological control because it displaces native vegetation and consumes water that could potentially be used for agricultural and municipal purposes, especially in areas with limited access to water. Finding the best-adapted insects for biological control involves locating the origin(s) of this plant. To narrow down the proximal source(s) of invasion of giant reed in the RGB, 10 microsatellite markers were developed. An analysis of 203 Old World and 159 North American plants, with an emphasis on the RGB, indicated a reduction in the allelic diversity in the introduced range compared with the Old World. Clonal assignment, neighbor joining, principal coordinates analyses, and STRUCTURE analyses were consistent and implied multiple introductions in North America, with one (likely clonal) lineage responsible for the invasion of the RGB, northern Mexico, and other parts of the southwestern United States. Although no identical matches with the RGB lineage were found in the Old World, several close matches were found on the Mediterranean coast of Spain.
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