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Spread of herbicide-resistant weedy rice (red rice, Oryza sativa L.) after 5 years of Clearfield rice cultivation in Italy


  • Editor
    H. Rennenberg

M. Busconi, Institute of Agronomy, Genetics and Field Crops, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, via Emilia Parmense 84, 29122 – Piacenza, Italy.


The weedy relative of cultivated rice, red rice, can invade and severely infest rice fields, as reported by rice farmers throughout the world. Because of its close genetic relationship to commercial rice, red rice has proven difficult to control. Clearfield (Cl) varieties, which are resistant to the inhibiting herbicides in the chemical group AHAS (acetohydroxyacid synthase), provide a highly efficient opportunity to control red rice infestations. In order to reduce the risk of herbicide resistance spreading from cultivated rice to red rice, stewardship guidelines are regularly released. In Italy, the cultivation of Cl cultivars started in 2006. In 2010, surveillance of the possible escape of herbicide resistance was carried out; 168 red rice plants were sampled in 16 fields from six locations containing Cl and traditional cultivars. A first subsample of 119 plants was analysed after herbicide treatment and the resistance was found in 62 plants. Of these 119 plants, 78 plants were randomly selected and analysed at the level of the AHAS gene to search for the Cl mutation determining the resistant genotype: the Cl mutation was present in all the resistant plants. Nuclear and chloroplast microsatellite markers revealed a high correlation between genetic similarity and herbicide resistance. The results clearly show that Cl herbicide-resistant red rice plants are present in the field, having genetic relationships with the Cl variety. Finding plants homozygous for the mutation suggests that the crossing event occurred relatively recently and that these plants are in the F2 or later generations. These observations raise the possibility that Cl red rice is already within the cultivated rice seed supply.