Burt Bluhm, professor of plant pathology at the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture (UADA), continues his research to find the bioherbicide that best targets pigweed. The project, currently in phase two, is focused on figuring out the possible trade-offs of specific pathogens used to create the herbicides.
“Pigweed has the ability to evade many different control strategies,” Bluhm said, “so we’ve been looking at ways to do a more bio-based approach.”
The bioherbicides Bluhm and his team created harness the natural pathogens they collected from pigweed in the first phase of the project. The bioherbicides also weaponize those pathogens to target pigweed and not the crop. So far, the bioherbicides they’re studying seem to be more effective than other options currently available to producers.
The approach of this project differs from what others have done and are doing. Bluhm uses tools such as genome editing to alter the genes in collected pathogens to make those pathogens target pigweed. They only use pathogens that will not target crops like soybeans.
“With modern techniques and genetics, we’re able to further weaponize these pathogens,” Bluhm said.
Once these bioherbicides are ready for the field, vast application possibilities are available. One similar type of herbicide made by UADA many years ago is still on the market and is effective in fighting pigweed in fields across the state. Bluhm hopes this project will create more options for producers.