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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.
Glyphosate is a broad-spectrum herbicide that has been used extensively for more than 20 yr. The first glyphosate-resistant weed biotype appeared in 1996; it involved a rigid ryegrass population from Australia that exhibited an LD50 value approximately 10-fold higher than that of sensitive biotypes. We have characterized gene expression levels and glyphosate sensitivity of 5-enolpyruvylshikimate 3-phosphate synthase (EPSPS), the target enzyme for glyphosate inhibition, in sensitive and resistant lines derived from this population. Restriction fragment length polymorphism analyses were also performed to examine the distribution of EPSPS gene variants and the gene copy number. A two- to threefold increase in basal EPSPS messenger RNA (mRNA) and enzyme activity levels was observed in the most resistant lines analyzed; however, differences among lines in the sensitivity of EPSPS to glyphosate were not apparent. Induction of EPSPS was observed within 48 h after application of 1.5 kg ae ha−1 of glyphosate. This was reflected in elevated levels of both EPSPS mRNA and enzyme activity. Similarly, 3-deoxy-D-arabino-heptulosonate 7-phosphate synthase mRNA levels increased after glyphosate treatment; however, basal and induced transcript levels were comparable for sensitive and resistant lines in this case. The restriction fragment length polymorphism analyses showed no evidence for gene amplification or cosegregation of a specific EPSPS gene variant with glyphosate resistance. EPSPS expression in lines exhibiting an intermediate level of resistance was indistinguishable from that in glyphosate-sensitive lines, suggesting that the mechanism could, at least in part, be non–target-based.
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