Herbicide effectiveness in controlling invasive plants under elevated CO2: sufficient evidence to rethink weeds management.
Previous studies have reported that chemical weed control will be less effective for some weed species under future atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Such reductions in plant sensitivity to herbicides under elevated CO2 may be due to greater biomass accumulation and differences among growth types. However, these studies have been limited to few growth types (herbaceous and grass species) and to a single herbicide (glyphosate). This study tested a more extensive range of weed species (both in number and growth form) and herbicides to assess general patterns of plant response. We grew 14 environmental weed species representing four different growth forms (grasses, herbs, shrubs and vines), that are commonly found in south-eastern Australia, under ambient (380 ppm) and elevated (550 ppm) CO2 concentrations. We then applied the recommended and double-recommended concentrations of two herbicides: glyphosate and fluroxypyr-meptyl. We found that responses of the weed species to herbicide under elevated CO2 were species-specific. However, the C3 grasses tended to be the most sensitive to herbicide application followed by the herbs and C4 grasses while shrubs and vines demonstrated the highest resistance. Our results highlight the need for broader testing to determine the species most likely to exhibit increased tolerance to herbicide in the future in order to improve management options beforehand and thus offset a future liability.