Pollen-mediated gene flow and transfer of resistance alleles from herbicide-resistant broadleaf weeds

Amit J. Jhala, Jason K. Norsworthy, Zahoor A. Ganie, Lynn M. Sosnoskie, Hugh J. Beckie, Carol A. Mallory-Smith, Jun Liu, Wei Wei, Junming Wang, David E. Stoltenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Pollen-mediated gene flow (PMGF) refers to the transfer of genetic information (alleles) from one plant to another compatible plant. With the evolution of herbicide-resistant (HR) weeds, PMGF plays an important role in the transfer of resistance alleles from HR to susceptible weeds; however, little attention is given to this topic. The objective of this work was to review reproductive biology, PMGF studies, and interspecific hybridization, as well as potential for herbicide resistance alleles to transfer in the economically important broadleaf weeds including common lambsquarters, giant ragweed, horseweed, kochia, Palmer amaranth, and waterhemp. The PMGF studies involving these species reveal that transfer of herbicide resistance alleles routinely occurs under field conditions and is influenced by several factors, such as reproductive biology, environment, and production practices. Interspecific hybridization studies within Amaranthus and Ambrosia spp. show that herbicide resistance allele transfer is possible between species of the same genus but at relatively low levels. The widespread occurrence of HR weed populations and high genetic diversity is at least partly due to PMGF, particularly in dioecious species such as Palmer amaranth and waterhemp compared with monoecious species such as common lambsquarters and horseweed. Prolific pollen production in giant ragweed contributes to PMGF. Kochia, a wind-pollinated species can efficiently disseminate herbicide resistance alleles via both PMGF and tumbleweed seed dispersal, resulting in widespread occurrence of multiple HR kochia populations. The findings from this review verify that intra-and interspecific gene flow can occur and, even at a low rate, could contribute to the rapid spread of herbicide resistance alleles. More research is needed to determine the role of PMGF in transferring multiple herbicide resistance alleles at the landscape level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)173-187
Number of pages15
JournalWeed Technology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • Amaranthus palmeri S. Watson.
  • Amaranthus tuberculatus (Moq.) Sauer
  • Ambrosia trifida L.
  • Bassia scoparia (L.) A.J. Scott
  • Chenopodium album L.
  • Erigeron canadensis (L.) Cronquist
  • Nomenclature: Common lambsquarters
  • Palmer amaranth
  • giant ragweed
  • horseweed
  • kochia
  • waterhemp

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Plant Science


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