|LANDAU, CHRISTOPHER - University Of Illinois|
|HAGER, AARON - University Of Illinois|
Submitted to: Global Change Biology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/10/2021
Publication Date: 8/22/2021
Citation: Landau, C.A., Hager, A.G., Williams II, M.M. 2021. Diminishing weed control exacerbates maize yield loss to adverse weather. Global Change Biology. 27(23):6156-6165. https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.15857.
Interpretive Summary: Weeds are a major cause of yield loss in maize, and due to accelerating rates of herbicide resistance evolution, weed control using standard chemical approaches is deteriorating worldwide. Quantifying the net effect of weed control and weather variability on maize yield would provide a more complete understanding of the consequences of climate change on maize. Using machine learning techniques on a 27-year dataset of herbicide efficacy field trials conducted in the heart of the U.S. Corn Belt, we show linkages between drier, hotter conditions and maize yield losses due to poorly controlled weeds. This portends greater yield loss in the future with expanding herbicide resistance and more variable weather predicted for important maize production regions.
Technical Abstract: Both weed interference and adverse weather can cause significant maize yield losses. However, most climate change projections on maize yields ignore the fact that weeds are widespread in maize production. Herein, we examine the effects of weed control and weather variability on maize yield loss due to weeds by using machine learning techniques on an expansive database of herbicide efficacy trials spanning 205 weather environments and 27 years. Late-season control of all weed species was the most important driver of maize yield loss due to weeds according to multiple analyses. Average yield losses of 50% were observed with little to no weed control. Furthermore, when the highest levels of weed control were not achieved, drier, hotter conditions just before and during silking exacerbated maize yield losses due to weeds. Current climate predictions suggest much of the US maize-growing regions will experience warmer, drier summers. This, coupled with the growing prevalence of herbicide resistance, increases the risk of maize yield loss due to weeds in the future without transformational change in weed management systems.