BACKGROUND: Environmental heterogeneity in space or time can drive the evolutionary trajectory of an adaptive trait. This concept could be of practical significance in pesticide resistance management that aims to delay the evolution of a resistance allele. Using a population genetics model, the dynamics of herbicide resistance in a weed species was simulated in a heterogeneous environment with alternation of two unrelated herbicides in time, in space or in both time and space. The level of the environmental heterogeneity (habitat grain) was simulated by a variation in the size of the herbicide-treated areas.
RESULTS: The model confirms that several strategies based on habitat heterogeneity efficiently slow down and even prevent resistance evolution. For a recessive resistant trait in outcrossing species, a medium level of environmental heterogeneity (intermediate habitat grain) was found to be the best for delaying herbicide resistance, as previously observed for insecticide resistance management. In selfing species or for a dominant resistant trait in outcrossing species, a low level of environmental heterogeneity (coarse-grained habitat) was more efficient in delaying resistance evolution when heterogeneity in both space and time were considered.
CONCLUSION: This model suggests that the choice of optimal tactics for delaying herbicide resistance by enhanced heterogeneity in space or time firstly depends on the interactions between the breeding system and the dominance of the resistance allele in the presence of herbicide, then on the value of the fitness cost and lastly on the dominance of this fitness cost. Copyright © 2007 Society of Chemical Industry