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Keywords:

  • allelochemical;
  • crop allelopathy;
  • rice;
  • root exudate;
  • weed management;
  • wheat

Abstract

Since varietal differences in allelopathy of crops against weeds were discovered in the 1970s, much research has documented the potential that allelopathic crops offer for integrated weed management with substantially reduced herbicide rates. Research groups worldwide have identified several crop species possessing potent allelopathic interference mediated by root exudation of allelochemicals. Rice, wheat, barley and sorghum have attracted most attention. Past research focused on germplasm screening for elite allelopathic cultivars and the identification of the allelochemicals involved. Based on this, traditional breeding efforts were initiated in rice and wheat to breed agronomically acceptable, weed-suppressive cultivars with improved allelopathic interference. Promising suppressive crosses are under investigation. Molecular approaches have elucidated the genetics of allelopathy by QTL mapping which associated the trait in rice and wheat with several chromosomes and suggested the involvement of several allelochemicals. Potentially important compounds that are constitutively secreted from roots have been identified in all crop species under investigation. Biosynthesis and exudation of these metabolites follow a distinct temporal pattern and can be induced by biotic and abiotic factors. The current state of knowledge suggests that allelopathy involves fluctuating mixtures of allelochemicals and their metabolites as regulated by genotype and developmental stage of the producing plant, environment, cultivation and signalling effects, as well as the chemical or microbial turnover of compounds in the rhizosphere. Functional genomics is being applied to identify genes involved in biosynthesis of several identified allelochemicals, providing the potential to improve allelopathy by molecular breeding. The dynamics of crop allelopathy, inducible processes and plant signalling is gaining growing attention; however, future research should also consider allelochemical release mechanisms, persistence, selectivity and modes of action, as well as consequences of improved crop allelopathy on plant physiology, the environment and management strategies. Creation of weed-suppressive cultivars with improved allelopathic interference is still a challenge, but traditional breeding or biotechnology should pave the way. Copyright © 2006 Society of Chemical Industry