New genetic vulnerability to herbicide found in nearly 50 corn lines

When a sweet corn breeder came in 2021 to report severe damage from the herbicide tolpyralate, Marty Williams hoped it was a fluke isolated from an inbred line. But two years later, after methodical field, greenhouse, and genetic testing, his new Pest Management Science study not only confirmed the sensitivity to tolpyralate in 49 sweet corn and corn lines in the field , but also revealed a new genetic vulnerability that could affect corn in general.

Tolpyralate is a relatively new HPPD-inhibiting herbicide labeled for all corn varieties. Normally, maize detoxifies HPPD-inhibitors before they can cause damage, by expressing the Nsf1 gene. Maize lines with mutant nsf1 alleles may show sensitivity to HPPD-inhibitors, but that was not the case with tolpyralate in the lines tested by Williams. However, his study showed that the sensitivity to tolypyralate is related to a different gene entirely, which explains why the sensitivity is not expected or caught during the breeding process.

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