The Role Of Allelopathic Bacteria In Weed Management

U.S.D.A., Agricultural Research Service, Cropping Systems & Water Quality Unit, University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri, U.S.A. Email: [email protected]

Abstract. Allelopathic bacteria encompass those rhizobacteria that colonize the surfaces of plant roots, produce, and release phytotoxic metabolites, similar to allelochemicals, that detrimentally affect growth of plants. Practical application of this group of bacteria to agriculture could contribute to biological weed management systems that have less impact on the environment than conventional systems by reducing inputs of herbicides. Allelopathic bacteria have been investigated for potential as inundative-type biological control agents on several weeds. Because allelopathic bacteria generally do not attack specific biochemical sites within the plant, unlike conventional herbicides, they offer a means to control weeds without causing direct selective pressure on the weed population, therefore, development of resistance is not a major consideration. Additionally, the use of allelopathic bacteria appears to be environmentally benign relative to herbicides. These characteristics make allelopathic bacteria an attractive approach for managing crop weeds in a sustainable manner, even within the boundaries of conventional agriculture systems. However, recent evidence suggests that indigenous allelopathic bacteria might be exploited under certain crop and soil management practices that are inherently part of sustainable agricultural systems. The development of "weed-suppressive" soils in diverse sustainable systems is encouraging because indigenous populations of allelopathic bacteria may develop in several soils and environments using similar practices. The recent demonstrations of apparent weed-suppressive soils may lead to development of specific management strategies for the establishment and persistence of native allelopathic bacteria directly in soils conducive to annual weed infestations.

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