Genetically modified weeds could usher in new era of ‘genetic control’

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Palmer amaranth: Credit: Howard Schwartz/Colorado State University)
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The USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture has announced a $500,000 grant to University of Illinois researchers in the Department of Crop Sciences. The project will lay the groundwork towards developing a new type of weed control system, known as genetic control, for waterhemp and Palmer amaranth.

“Currently, we use chemical, physical, cultural, and biological control strategies to reduce weed populations. A genetic control strategy would be a way to introduce specific genetic controls that could change and ultimately eliminate the population,” says Pat Tranel, molecular weed scientist, interim head of the Department of Crop Sciences at U of I, and principal investigator on the grant.

The idea is to use genetic modification techniques to change the sex ratio – the ratio of males to females – in waterhemp and Palmer amaranth populations. Theoretically, with the right genetic manipulation, every mating would result in only male offspring. If this occurred over multiple generations, every individual in these populations would eventually be male. Reproduction would cease and populations would crash.

Read full, original post: USDA invests in research to develop genetic control of waterhemp

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