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Imidazolinone-tolerant crops: history, current status and future


  • Paper presented at the symposium ‘Herbicide-resistant crops from biotechnology: current and future status’, held by the Agrochemicals Division of the American Chemical Society at the 227th National Meeting, Anaheim, CA, 29–30 March, 2004, to mark the presentation of the International Award for Research in Agrochemicals to Dr Stephen O Duke


Imidazolinone herbicides, which include imazapyr, imazapic, imazethapyr, imazamox, imazamethabenz and imazaquin, control weeds by inhibiting the enzyme acetohydroxyacid synthase (AHAS), also called acetolactate synthase (ALS). AHAS is a critical enzyme for the biosynthesis of branched-chain amino acids in plants. Several variant AHAS genes conferring imidazolinone tolerance were discovered in plants through mutagenesis and selection, and were used to create imidazolinone-tolerant maize (Zea mays L), wheat (Triticum aestivum L), rice (Oryza sativa L), oilseed rape (Brassica napus L) and sunflower (Helianthus annuus L). These crops were developed using conventional breeding methods and commercialized as Clearfield* crops from 1992 to the present. Imidazolinone herbicides control a broad spectrum of grass and broadleaf weeds in imidazolinone-tolerant crops, including weeds that are closely related to the crop itself and some key parasitic weeds. Imidazolinone-tolerant crops may also prevent rotational crop injury and injury caused by interaction between AHAS-inhibiting herbicides and insecticides. A single target-site mutation in the AHAS gene may confer tolerance to AHAS-inhibiting herbicides, so that it is technically possible to develop the imidazolinone-tolerance trait in many crops. Activities are currently directed toward the continued improvement of imidazolinone tolerance and development of new Clearfield* crops. Management of herbicide-resistant weeds and gene flow from crops to weeds are issues that must be considered with the development of any herbicide-resistant crop. Thus extensive stewardship programs have been developed to address these issues for Clearfield* crops. Copyright © 2005 Society of Chemical Industry