The evolutionary origins of pesticide resistance

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Hawkins, N. J., Bass, C., Dixon, A. and Neve, P. 2019. The evolutionary origins of pesticide resistance. Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society. 94 (1), pp. 135-155.

AuthorsHawkins, N. J., Bass, C., Dixon, A. and Neve, P.

Durable crop protection is an essential component of current and future food security. However, the effectiveness of pesticides is threatened by the evolution of resistant pathogens, weeds and insect pests. Pesticides are mostly novel synthetic compounds, and yet target species are often able to evolve resistance soon after a new compound is introduced. Therefore, pesticide resistance provides an interesting case of rapid evolution under strong selective pressures, which can be used to address fundamental questions concerning the evolutionary origins of adaptations to novel conditions. We ask: (1) whether this adaptive potential originates mainly from de novo mutations or from standing variation; (2) which pre-existing traits could form the basis of resistance adaptations; and (3) whether recurrence of resistance mechanisms among species results from interbreeding and horizontal gene transfer or from independent parallel evolution. We compare and contrast the three major pesticide groups: insecticides, herbicides and fungicides. Whilst resistance to these three agrochemical classes is to some extent united by the common evolutionary forces at play, there are also important differences. Fungicide resistance appears to evolve, in most cases, by de novo point mutations in the target-site encoding genes; herbicide resistance often evolves through selection of polygenic metabolic resistance from standing variation; and insecticide resistance evolves through a combination of standing variation and de novo mutations in the target site or major metabolic resistance genes. This has practical implications for resistance risk assessment and management, and lessons learnt from pesticide resistance should be applied in the deployment of novel, non-chemical pest-control methods.

KeywordsEvolution ; Pesticide resistance; Herbicide; Fungicide; Insecticide; Standing variation; De novo mutation; Adaptive introgression; Pleiotropic co-option; Selective sweeps
Year of Publication2019
JournalBiological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society
Journal citation94 (1), pp. 135-155
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
PubMed ID29971903
Open accessPublished as ‘gold’ (paid) open access
FunderBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
European Research Council
Funder project or codeBBSRC Strategic Programme in Smart Crop Protection
Multiple Herbicide Resistance in Grass Weeds: from Genes to AgroEcosystems
European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme
Publisher's version
Copyright license
Accepted author manuscript
Copyright license
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online03 Jul 2018
Publication process dates
Accepted06 Jun 2018

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