From: University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES)
Published June 6, 2017 02:00 PM

New way to detect Palmer amaranth in contaminated seedlots

Last summer, farmers in the Midwest got an unwelcome surprise after planting native seed on Conservation Reserve Program acres. Palmer amaranth, the aggressive and hard-to-kill weed, had established in droves. As a possible solution, some states declared Palmer a noxious weed, which prohibits its sale and transport.

“I’ve had seed growers call me,” says Pat Tranel, molecular weed scientist in the crop sciences department at the University of Illinois. “Their businesses are up in the air because of this. Unless they have a way to certify their product is Palmer-free, they can’t sell it.”

The typical testing method involves growing a sample of seeds until the plants are large enough to be identified, but this is a slow and potentially unreliable process.

“It all takes a long time, and sometimes the seeds don’t germinate during the test,” Tranel says. “Alternatively, there’s a company that will test individual seeds using DNA sequencing, but they’re charging $100 per seed. It’s not cost-effective.”

Read more at University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES)

Image: The new genetic test can detect a single Palmer amaranth seed among 99+ seeds of close relatives. (Credit: Lauren D. Quinn)

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