Purdue University Graduate School
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Influence of Mesotrione, ALS-Inhibitor Resistance, and Self-Incompatibility on Giant Ragweed Management in Soybean

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posted on 2022-04-28, 01:21 authored by Benjamin Clyde WestrichBenjamin Clyde Westrich


Giant ragweed (Ambrosia trifida L.) is an annual broadleaf plant capable of emergence throughout the cropping season, opportune colonization of disturbed soil, rapid biomass accumulation, and a propensity to evolve mutations that endow resistance to herbicides, all of which contribute to giant ragweed being one of the most challenging weeds to control in row-crop production. Many soybean growers rely on acetolactate synthase (ALS)-inhibiting herbicides such as cloransulam for control of giant ragweed prior to its emergence, though the spread of biotypes resistant to ALS inhibitors can render these herbicides largely ineffective. Mesotrione inhibits the 4-hydroxyphenylpyruvate dioxygenase (HPPD) enzyme, and applications of this herbicide have recently been approved for use in mesotrione-resistant soybean varieties. Field experiments demonstrated that preemergence applications of mesotrione resulted in greater control of giant ragweed populations segregating for ALS-inhibitor resistance than several other commonly used herbicide combinations. Where mesotrione was applied, giant ragweed biomass was reduced by an average of 84% relative to the nontreated, while treatments without mesotrione increased biomass by an average of 34% by suppressing competition from other weed species. Additionally, both soil- and agar-based bioassays demonstrated that combinations of mesotrione and metribuzin can be synergistic for control of giant ragweed. 

Cloransulam was shown to result in strong selection for giant ragweed individuals with ALS-inhibitor resistance, increasing the proportion of resistant plants that emerged at one field site from 15% to greater than 90% after a single preemergence application. This selection pressure was reduced when mesotrione was co-applied with cloransulam. However, no herbicide combination, including sequential applications of non-ALS-inhibiting herbicides, consistently resulted in a resistance frequency similar to the baseline if an ALS inhibitor was applied preemergence. Resistance to cloransulam and other ALS inhibitors is expressed in giant ragweed plants possessing at least one mutant (Trp574Leu) ALS allele. The distribution of this allele in one field violated the Hardy-Weinberg Equilibrium, despite the fact that ALS is a nuclear gene and the Trp574Leu mutation does not incur a fitness penalty. We suspected that the inheritance of this mutation may be linked with a gene or genes responsible for self-incompatibility (SI) in giant ragweed, and that linkage drag was disrupting pollination in resistant plants. This research provided evidence that giant ragweed does possess SI, as greater pollen retention, pollen tube growth, and seed set were observed in cross-pollinated plants compared with self-pollinated plants. Non-Mendelian inheritance of the Trp574Leu mutation was documented in crosses between plants from three different giant ragweed populations, indicating that the mutant ALS allele may be linked with an SI allele common to many plants because of a shared resistant ancestor.  In crosses between plants from one population, production of resistant F1 seeds was 33% greater on average compared with the expectation under Mendelian inheritance. 

Collectively, this research demonstrated that mesotrione may become a highly effective tool for control of giant ragweed in soybean. Applications of mesotrione can also reduce the selection for an increased frequency of ALS inhibitor-resistant biotypes induced by cloransulam, though a more robust weed management strategy may be necessary to maintain the long-term viability of ALS inhibitors.  The need for sound weed management practices is underscored by the impact of the linkage of SI and ALS genes, which may be encouraging a more rapid spread of herbicide-resistance than was previously anticipated.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Botany and Plant Pathology

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Bryan G. Young

Additional Committee Member 2

William G. Johnson

Additional Committee Member 3

Sharon A. Kessler

Additional Committee Member 4

Mitchell R. Tuinstra