Curtin University: Research project to find herbicide options for tackling resistance

The team, led by Professor Josh Mylne, Deputy Director from the Centre for Crop and Disease Management at Curtin, is working in close collaboration with chemists at The University of Western Australia (UWA) and Perth-based company Demagtech Pty Ltd.

With a goal to develop innovative ways to overcome herbicide resistance, Professor Mylne said his team aimed to make herbicides work more efficiently for growers, find a new mode of action for an under-used herbicide and better understand how herbicides break down.

“Australia pioneered the herbicide-intensive yet erosion-reducing no-till approach and has some of the world’s highest rates of herbicide resistance, but has made few contributions to the field of herbicide development,” Professor Mylne said.

“We’re going to build Australia’s agrochemical capability, with the ultimate goal of helping growers produce more food without losing practices that protect our soils from over-tilling.”

Co-investigator and UWA chemist Associate Professor Keith Stubbs said the expected outcomes of the project were threefold; to find effective new herbicide combinations; to harness the potential of an understudied herbicide against which few weeds have evolved resistance to; and to establish how to reduce premature breakdown of herbicides within plants.

“The major benefit of this research is that growers could have access to new solutions to herbicide resistance sooner rather than later,” Associate Professor Stubbs said.

“Instead of starting from scratch, we’re looking at existing herbicides and using our partnership with Demagtech to ensure any successful outcomes are closer to market.”

The research is supported by an Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Project grant of $750,000.

Curtin University Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research Professor Chris Moran said ARC Linkage Projects allowed Curtin to partner with industry and ensure on-the-ground impact and, in this case, contribute to the growing challenges of food security.

“For many years weeds, and more recently herbicide resistant weeds, have been a major factor for yield losses for Australian growers. Never before has there been a stronger demand for technologies to improve efficacy of the herbicides we have available,” Professor Moran said.

“The future of agriculture is now looking brighter, with this research enabling the safe and sustainable use of herbicides, which contributes towards better farm practices, and ultimately protecting food supply of Australia.”

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