Evolution in ecological timescales: a threat to food production and security

Tuesday 29 May 2018, 1.00PM

Speaker(s): Dr Helen Hicks, University of Sheffield

From healthcare to food production, the evolution of resistance to chemical treatments is one of the biggest challenges facing society. In food production, herbicide resistant weeds have been reported to be the biggest threat to crop yields, with weeds resulting in losses averaging 35%, worldwide.

Here, I present results from a national project: The Black-Grass Resistance Initiative (BGRI) uses black-grass (Alopecurus myosuroides), an arable weed that has increased in abundance in the UK over the past 20 years, as a system for investigating the drivers of evolved resistance. We use a network of over 70 farms to investigate the relationships between weed population densities, herbicide resistance and field management histories (herbicide applications, crop rotations and cultivation regimes) to evaluate control strategies and the likelihood of evolution of herbicide resistance. We look at impacts of weed density on crop yield and show that the economic costs of evolved resistance are considerable: loss of control through resistance can double the economic costs of weeds. This research highlights the importance of managing threats to food production and healthcare systems using an evolutionarily informed approach in a proactive not reactive manner.


Location: K018

Email: kim.simpson@york.ac.uk