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Concept: Weed


Many studies have reported the phytotoxicity of allelopathic compounds under controlled conditions. However, more field studies are required to provide realistic evidences for the significance of allelopathic interference in natural communities. We conducted a 2-years field experiment in a semiarid plant community (NE Spain). Specifically, we planted juvenile individuals and sowed seeds of Salsola vermiculata L., Lygeum spartum L. and Artemisia herba-alba Asso. (three co-dominant species in the community) beneath adult individuals of the allelopathic shrub A. herba-alba, and assessed the growth, vitality, seed germination and seedling survival of those target species with and without the presence of chemical interference by the incorporation of activated carbon (AC) to the soil. In addition, juveniles and seeds of the same three target species were planted and sown beneath the canopy of adults of S. vermiculata (a shrub similar to A. herba-alba, but non-allelopathic) and in open bare soil to evaluate whether the allelopathic activity of A. herba-alba modulates the net outcome of its interactions with neighboring plants under contrasting abiotic stress conditions. We found that vitality of A. herba-alba juveniles was enhanced beneath A. herba-alba individuals when AC was present. Furthermore, we found that the interaction outcome in A. herba-alba microsite was neutral, whereas a positive outcome was found for S. vermiculata microsite, suggesting that allelopathy may limit the potential facilitative effects of the enhanced microclimatic conditions in A. herba-alba microsite. Yet, L. spartum juveniles were facilitated in A. herba-alba microsite. The interaction outcome in A. herba-alba microsite was positive under conditions of very high abiotic stress, indicating that facilitative interactions predominated over the interference of allelopathic plants under those conditions. These results highlight that laboratory studies can overestimate the significance of allelopathy in nature, and consequently, results obtained under controlled conditions should be interpreted carefully.

Concepts: Plant, Botany, Seed, Plant morphology, Germination, Seedling, Weed, Allelopathy


Weeds are currently present in a wide range of ecosystems worldwide. Although the beginning of their evolution is largely unknown, researchers assumed that they developed in tandem with cultivation since the appearance of agricultural habitats some 12,000 years ago. These rapidly-evolving plants invaded the human disturbed areas and thrived in the new habitat. Here we present unprecedented new findings of the presence of “proto-weeds” and small-scale trial cultivation in Ohalo II, a 23,000-year-old hunter-gatherers' sedentary camp on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, Israel. We examined the plant remains retrieved from the site (ca. 150,000 specimens), placing particular emphasis on the search for evidence of plant cultivation by Ohalo II people and the presence of weed species. The archaeobotanically-rich plant assemblage demonstrates extensive human gathering of over 140 plant species and food preparation by grinding wild wheat and barley. Among these, we identified 13 well-known current weeds mixed with numerous seeds of wild emmer, barley, and oat. This collection provides the earliest evidence of a human-disturbed environment-at least 11 millennia before the onset of agriculture-that provided the conditions for the development of “proto-weeds”, a prerequisite for weed evolution. Finally, we suggest that their presence indicates the earliest, small-scale attempt to cultivate wild cereals seen in the archaeological record.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Agriculture, Species, Plant, Wheat, Cereal, Israel, Weed


A neglected aspect of alien invasive plant species is their influence on mosquito vector ecology and malaria transmission. Invasive plants that are highly attractive to Anopheles mosquitoes provide them with sugar that is critical to their survival. The effect on Anopheles mosquito populations was examined through a habitat manipulation experiment that removed the flowering branches of highly attractive Prosopis juliflora from selected villages in Mali, West Africa.

Concepts: Malaria, Anopheles, Mosquito, Genetic pollution, Extinction, Invasive species, Weed, Introduced species


High crop yields depend on the continuous input of orthophosphate (PO(4)(−3))-based fertilizers and herbicides. Two major challenges for agriculture are that phosphorus is a nonrenewable resource and that weeds have developed broad herbicide resistance. One strategy to overcome both problems is to engineer plants to outcompete weeds and microorganisms for limiting resources, thereby reducing the requirement for both fertilizers and herbicides. Plants and most microorganisms are unable to metabolize phosphite (PO(3)(−3)), so we developed a dual fertilization and weed control system by generating transgenic plants that can use phosphite as a sole phosphorus source. Under greenhouse conditions, these transgenic plants require 30–50% less phosphorus input when fertilized with phosphite to achieve similar productivity to that obtained by the same plants using orthophosphate fertilizer and, when in competition with weeds, accumulate 2–10 times greater biomass than when fertilized with orthophosphate.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Ammonia, Fertilizer, Phosphate, Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Weed, Glyphosate


Japanese knotweed Fallopia japonica is an extremely abundant invasive plant in Belgium and surrounding countries. To date, no eradication method is available for land managers facing the invasion of this rhizomatous plant. We tested different chemical herbicides with two application methods (spraying and stem injection), as well as mechanical treatments, on knotweed clones throughout southern Belgium. The tested control methods were selected to be potentially usable by managers, e.g., using legally accepted rates for herbicides. Stem volume, height and density reduction were assessed after one or two years, depending on the control method. Labor estimations were made for each control method. No tested control method completely eradicated the clones. Stem injection with glyphosate-based herbicide (3.6 kg ha(-1) of acid equivalent glyphosate) caused the most damage, i.e., no sprouting shoots were observed the year following the injection. The following year, though, stunted shoots appeared. Among the mechanical control methods, repeated cuts combined with native tree transplanting most appreciably reduced knotweed development. The most efficient methods we tested could curb knotweed invasion, but are not likely to be effective in eradicating the species. As such, they should be included in a more integrated restoration strategy, together with prevention and public awareness campaigns.

Concepts: English-language films, Plant stem, Fallopia, Polygonaceae, Japanese knotweed, Weed, Herbicide, Roundup


Genetically modified (GM) crops have been and continue to be a subject of controversy despite their rapid adoption by farmers where approved. For the last two decades, an important matter of debate has been their impact on pesticide use, particularly for herbicide-tolerant (HT) crops. Some claim that these crops bring about a decrease in herbicide use, while others claim the opposite. In fact, since 1996, most cultivated GMOs have been GMHT crops, which involve the use of an associated herbicide, generally glyphosate. In their very first years of adoption, HT crops often led to some decrease in herbicide use. However, the repetition of glyphosate-tolerant crops and of glyphosate only applications in the same fields without sufficient alternation and herbicide diversity has contributed to the appearance of glyphosate-resistant weeds. These weeds have resulted in a rise in the use of glyphosate and other herbicides. This article explores this situation and the impacts of herbicide-resistant weeds, using an interdisciplinary approach and drawing on recent data. The paper analyzes the spread of GMHT crops worldwide and their consequences on herbicide use in the USA in particular. It then addresses the global development of glyphosate-resistant weeds and their impact, particularly focusing on the USA. Finally, the last section explores how industry, farmers, and weed scientists are coping with the spread of resistant weeds. The concluding comments deal more widely with trends in GM crops.

Concepts: Agriculture, Pesticide, Abstraction, Genetically modified organism, Weed, Herbicide, Glyphosate, Roundup


Gene drives may be capable of addressing ecological problems by altering entire populations of wild organisms, but their use has remained largely theoretical due to technical constraints. Here we consider the potential for RNA-guided gene drives based on the CRISPR nuclease Cas9 to serve as a general method for spreading altered traits through wild populations over many generations. We detail likely capabilities, discuss limitations, and provide novel precautionary strategies to control the spread of gene drives and reverse genomic changes. The ability to edit populations of sexual species would offer substantial benefits to humanity and the environment. For example, RNA-guided gene drives could potentially prevent the spread of disease, support agriculture by reversing pesticide and herbicide resistance in insects and weeds, and control damaging invasive species. However, the possibility of unwanted ecological effects and near-certainty of spread across political borders demand careful assessment of each potential application. We call for thoughtful, inclusive, and well-informed public discussions to explore the responsible use of this currently theoretical technology.

Concepts: Gene, Biodiversity, Biology, Malaria, Ecology, Natural environment, Invasive species, Weed


Herbicide hormesis is commonly observed at sub-toxic doses of herbicides and other phytotoxins. The occurrence and magnitude of this phenomenon is influenced by plant growth stage and physiological status, environmental factors, the endpoint measured, and the timing between treatment and endpoint measurement. The mechanism in some cases of herbicide hormesis appears to be related to the target site of the herbicide, whereas, in other examples hormesis may be by overcompensation to moderate stress induced by the herbicides or a response to disturbed homeostasis. Theoretically, herbicide hormesis could be used in crop production, but this has been practical only in the case of the use of herbicides as sugarcane “ripeners” to enhance sucrose accumulation. The many factors that can influence the occurrence, the magnitude, and the dose range of hormetic increases in yield for most crops make it too unpredictable and risky as a production practice with the currently available knowledge. Herbicide hormesis can cause undesired effects in situations in which weeds are unintentionally exposed to hormetic doses (e.g., in adjacent fields, when shielded by crop vegetation). Some weeds that evolved herbicide resistance may have hormetic responses to recommended herbicide application rates. Little is known about such effects under field conditions. A more complete understanding of herbicide hormesis is needed to exploit its potential benefits and to minimize its potential harmful effects in crop production.

Concepts: Measurement, Dose, Toxicology, Knowledge, The Target, Weed, Crop, Hormesis


We propose a mathematical model for biocontrol of the invasive weed Fallopia japonica using one of its co-evolved natural enemies, the Japanese sap-sucking psyllid Aphalara itadori. This insect sucks the sap from the stems of the plant thereby weakening it. Its diet is highly specific to F. japonica. We consider a single isolated knotweed stand, the plant’s size being described by time-dependent variables for total stem and rhizome biomass. It is the larvae of A. itadori that damage the plant most, so the insect population is described in terms of variables for the numbers of larvae and adults, using a stage-structured modelling approach. The dynamics of the model depends mainly on a parameter h, which measures how long it takes for an insect to handle (digest) one unit of F. japonica stem biomass. If h is too large, then the model does not have a positive equilibrium and the plant biomass and insect numbers both grow together without bound, though at a lower rate than if the insects were absent. If h is sufficiently small, then the model possesses a positive equilibrium which appears to be locally stable. The results based on our model imply that satisfactory long-term control of the knotweed F. japonica using the insect A. itadori is only possible if the insect is able to consume and digest knotweed biomass sufficiently quickly; if it cannot, then the insect can only slow down the growth which is still unbounded.

Concepts: Insect, Hemiptera, Fallopia, Polygonaceae, Japanese knotweed, Invasive species, Weed, Polygonum


Agricultural production enhancement has been realized by more consumption of fossil energy such as fertilizer and agrochemicals. However, the production provides the present human with sufficient and diversified commodities, but at the same time, deprives in some extent the resources from the future human as well. In the other hand, it is known that synthetic herbicides face worldwide threats to human’s health and environment as well. Therefore, it is a great challenge for agricultural sustainable development. The current review has been focussed on various oilseed crop species which launch efficient allelopathic intervention, either with weeds or other crops. Crop allelopathic properties can make one species more persistent to a native species. Therefore, these crops are potentially harmful to both naturalized as well as agricultural settings. On the other side, allelopathic crops provide strong potential for the development of cultivars that are more highly weed suppressive in managed settings. It is possible to utilize companion plants that have no deleterious effect on neighbor crops and can be included in intercropping system, thus, a mean of contributing to agricultural sustainable development. In mixed culture, replacement method, wherein differing densities of a neighbor species are planted, has been used to study phytotoxic/competitive effects. So, to use alternative ways for weed suppression has become very crucial. Allelochemicals have the ability to create eco-friendly products for weed management, which is beneficial for agricultural sustainable development. Our present study assessed the potential of four oilseed crops for allelopathy on other crops and associated weeds.

Concepts: Agriculture, Sustainability, Crops, Weed, Herbicide, Permaculture, Allelopathy, Companion planting