genome analysis provides insight into its adaptation and invasiveness as a weed
The success of a notorious farmyard weed stems from clusters of genes that help it compete with crops and dodge diseases.
Each year, weeds cause billions of dollars of agricultural losses worldwide. They evolve rapidly alongside domesticated crops to escape eradication. A team including researchers from the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences sequenced the genome of one particularly pernicious weed – barnyard grass (Echinochloa crus-galli) – that wreaks havoc in rice paddies. They found three groups of genes in barnyard grass responsible for the release of a chemical that hampers the growth of rice, and another group that protects the weed from rice blast – a devastating fungal disease. The team also found a large number of genes that help barnyard grass counter toxic chemicals from other plants and herbicides.
Understanding how pervasive weeds evolved to survive in varied conditions will help guide efforts to control them and protect the global food supply.
- Nature Communications 8, 1031 (2017). doi: 10.1038/s41467-017-01067-5