Could Covid-style PCR tests be used to screen for herbicide resistance?

While the dangers and implications of antibiotic resistance to human health are well known and publicised, far less attention has been given the increasing problem of resistance to the pesticides and herbicides vital to global food production systems.

Could Covid-style PCR tests be used to screen for herbicide resistance?

Weeds present one of the largest costs to agriculture, causing greater losses to crop yield than both pest and pathogens combined, and costing Australian grain growers over $5 billion every year in yield losses and management costs. Herbicides are by far the most effective weed control tools and therefore the most widely used weed management practice of growers. However, the extensive use of herbicides for weed control has led to the evolution of herbicide resistant weeds.

Herbicide resistant weeds have become such a common problem that growers will often use resistance testing to determine whether they have resistance, before spending time and money applying herbicides that may potentially be ineffective due to resistance. Classical methods of testing for resistance consist of sampling plants or seeds from the field and taking them to the glasshouse or lab for growth, then spraying with different types of herbicides at differing application rates. These tests are very useful in determining resistance to differing herbicides, but a major disadvantage is the time required for the tests to yield results.

This project will investigate the potential of using molecular detection technologies, such as PCR assays, coupled with knowledge of genetic mutations causing herbicide resistance, in herbicide resistance screening. Techniques that will be used in this project will include plant growth, herbicide application, DNA/RNA extraction, primer design and PCR.

This project may be eligible for a $5000 student scholarship. Please contact the project supervisors for details and to express your interest.


Dr Jenna Malone

Dr Jenna Malone is a Senior Research Fellow with the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, Weed Science Research group. She works on understanding and management of herbicide resistant weeds, with a focus on the evolution and inheritance of molecular resistance mechanisms.

Dr Peter Boutsalis

Dr Peter Boutsalis is a researcher with the Weeds Science Research group whose work focuses on conducting random weed surveys to monitor for changes in herbicide resistance. He also runs Plant Science Consulting, an Adelaide based company specialising in herbicide resistance testing.

Research areas: Agricultural Science

Tagged in Honours projects - Agricultural science, Honours projects - Jenna Malone, Honours projects - Peter Boutsalis