The costs of human-induced evolution in an agricultural system

Varah, Alexa, Ahodo, Kwadjo, Coutts, Shaun , Hicks, Helen L., Comont, David, Crook, Laura, Hull, Richard, Neve, Paul, Childs, Dylan Z., Freckleton, Robert P. and Norris, Ken (2020) The costs of human-induced evolution in an agricultural system. Nature Sustainability, 3 . pp. 63-71. ISSN 2398-9629

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Pesticides have underpinned significant improvements in global food security, albeit with associated environmental costs. Currently, the yield benefits of pesticides are threatened as overuse has led to wide-scale evolution of resistance. Yet despite this threat, there are no large-scale estimates of crop yield losses or economic costs due to resistance. Here, we combine national-scale density and resistance data for the weed Alopecurus myosuroides (black-grass) with crop yield maps and a new economic model to estimate that the annual cost of resistance in England is £0.4bn in lost gross profit (2014 prices), and annual wheat yield loss due to resistance is 0.8 million tonnes. A total loss of herbicide control against black-grass would cost £1bn and 3.4 million tonnes of lost wheat yield annually. Worldwide, there are 253 herbicide-resistant weeds, so the global impact of resistance could be enormous. Our research provides an urgent case for national-scale planning to combat further evolution of resistance, and an incentive for policies focused on increasing yields through more sustainable food-production systems rather than relying so heavily on herbicides.

Keywords:black-grass, herbicide resistance
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C180 Ecology
Divisions:College of Science > Lincoln Institute for Agri-Food Technology
ID Code:46727
Deposited On:19 Nov 2021 11:30

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