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ARS Home » Northeast Area » University Park, Pennsylvania » Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #301050

Research Project: Multifunctional Farms and Landscapes to Enhance Ecosystem Services

Location: Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research

Title: Herbicide-resistant crop biotechnology: potential and pitfalls

item Egan Jr, John

Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/2/2014
Publication Date: 7/11/2014
Citation: Egan Jr, J.F. 2014. Herbicide-resistant crop biotechnology: potential and pitfalls. In A. Richrock, S. Chopra, & S. Fleischer (Eds.), Plant Biotechnology: Experience and Future Prospects. p.143-154.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Herbicide-resistant crops are an important agricultural biotechnology that can enable farmers to effectively control weeds without harming their crops. Glyphosate-resistant (i.e. Roundup Ready) crops have been the most commercially successful varieties of herbicide-resistant crops and have been planted on millions of hectares globally. These crops have brought substantial benefits including greater flexibility and efficiency in weed management operations, reduced environmental pollution from herbicides, and increased adoption of conservation tillage or no-tillage cropping systems. At the same time, an over reliance on the herbicide glyphosate has lead to extensive problems with weed species that have evolved resistance to this herbicide. The commercial success of herbicide-resistant crops has also been correlated with consolidation in the agrichemical and seed industries, with declining investment in public agriculture research and extension, and with increasing farm size and specialization. These three interrelated socio-economic trends have made it increasingly difficult for farmers to counter herbicide-resistant weed challenges with integrated weed management practices that combine chemical, mechanical, and cultural techniques. Experience thus far therefore demonstrates that while herbicide-resistant crops can have substantial benefits for agriculture and the environment, it can be difficult to embrace this technology without foreclosing other options for sustainable weed management.