Researchers develop genetic test for early detection of Palmer Amaranth

Researchers hope to make the new test technology commercially available to agronomic professionals across the U.S. by the end of 2021.

Palmer Amaranth (Special to The Globe)

ST. PAUL — Palmer Amaranth is a high-impact agronomic weed species that has cost the U.S. ag industry billions of dollars since its discovery outside of its native range in the southwestern U.S. and northwestern Mexico. Over the last 20 years, it has moved farther north, and now poses a major threat to corn, soybean and cotton growers across the south and Midwest.

It is illegal to sell any kind of seed in Minnesota if the seed lot contains Palmer Amaranth because of its potential to wipe out up to 91% of corn yields, 68% of soybean yields and 54% of cotton yields. It is difficult to visibly distinguish from other pigweed species, making identification reliant upon genetic testing.

In a recent study published in Pest Management Science, researchers from the University of Minnesota’s Minnesota Invasive Terrestrial Plants and Pests Center (MITPPC) and Colorado State University developed a new test to identify Palmer Amaranth that is more robust, easier to use, and has shown 99.9% accuracy.

Researchers hope to make the new test technology commercially available to agronomic professionals across the U.S. by the end of 2021, which can be applied to both individual samples and bulk seed mixes.

“We believe this has the potential to help prevent Palmer seed from being introduced as a contaminant in pollinator seed mixes, bird seed, and other seed lots sold from areas where Palmer is currently a problem, into areas like Minnesota,” said co-author Todd Gaines, an associate professor of molecular weed science at Colorado State University. “We also see great potential for this to be used to help protect corn and soybean exports by verifying the absence of Palmer in grain sold to countries that won’t accept Palmer-contaminated products.”


In the immediate future, the research team continues to investigate novel approaches for Palmer control, and are currently investigating the potential use of genomic testing to identify Palmer presence in soil seed banks.

The research was funded by the Minnesota Invasive Terrestrial Plants & Pests Center through the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. Collaborators included University of Minnesota Extension, Colorado State University, Michigan State University, and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

Related Topics: AGRICULTURE
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