There are many concerns about the effects of repeated use of glyphosate in glyphosate-resistant (GR) crops, including two that are seemingly contradictory. These are (1) weed escapes and (2) loss of weed diversity. Weeds that escape glyphosate treatment represent species that likely will become troublesome and difficult to control in the future, and identifying these future problems may allow more effective management. In contrast, complete weed control directly reduces the weed component of agroecosystem biodiversity and may lower other components indirectly (e.g., weed-dependent granivores). During 2001 and 2002 effects of glyphosate and conventional weed control treatments on weed community composition and GR soybean yields were studied. Field studies were conducted along a north–south transect of sites spanning a distance of 1600 km from Minnesota to Louisiana. Low-intensity use (single application yr−1) of glyphosate allowed more escapes and maintained higher weed diversity than high-intensity use (two applications yr−1) of glyphosate, and it was equivalent to or even higher than diversity in non-GR systems. Although the same weeds escaped from low- and high-intensity glyphosate treatments, frequency of escapes was higher with less intensive use. These results suggest that limited use of glyphosate would not have profound effects on weed diversity. In addition, crop yield did not differ between GR and non-GR treatments at high latitudes, but below 40° N latitude, with a longer cropping season, yields with low-intensity glyphosate use decreased by about 2% per degree latitude because of competition from escaped weeds.
Nomenclature: Soybean, Glycine max (L.) Merr.