S. Watson (Palmer amaranth) is a fast-growing, dioecious, highly competitive agricultural weed species, which is spreading across the US Midwest. Population sex ratios are an important consideration in the management of A. palmeri
populations as this species has become resistant to several herbicide sites of action, and there is need to minimize seed production by female plants. Environmental conditions, particularly stressors, may influence sex ratios, and herbicides act as major stressors and evolutionary filters in agricultural fields. Amaranthus
spp. have shown a tendency for rapid evolution of herbicide resistance, with the frequency of protoporphyrinogen oxidase (PPO)-inhibitor resistance increasing across the Midwestern US. A greenhouse experiment was conducted to investigate the effect of two PPO-inhibiting herbicide treatments of either lactofen or fomesafen on four different Illinois populations (Cahokia, Collinsville, Rend Lake, and Massac). Plants raised from seed from the Massac population were tallest, and both males and females from this population also had the highest vegetative biomass. Female plants from the Collinsville population had more reproductive biomass than male plants. Control populations were male-biased (Cahokia, Collinsville), female-biased (Masaac), and 1:1 (Rend Lake). Lactofen shifted the male-biased populations to female-biased or 1:1 and the female-biased population to 1:1. Fomesafen-treated populations were male-biased or 1:1. This study suggests that PPO-inhibiting herbicide treatments may influence the growth and sex ratio of A. palmeri
populations, which is an underlying factor in the rate of herbicide evolution in this species. An understanding of the underlying mechanisms of how external factors influence sex ratios may eventually provide an opportunity to reduce seed production in populations by shifting sex ratios towards a male bias.
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