If your golf game isn't up to par, you may be able to blame it on those tufts of weeds on the course.

Golf course weeds are developing resistance to the herbicide glyphosate

If your golf game isn’t up to par, you may be able to blame it on those tufts of weeds on the course. Annual bluegrass is a problematic winter weed on many U.S. golf courses. After years of management with the herbicide glyphosate, resistant biotypes of this weed have developed, which will make keeping a clean fairway more challenging.

A report in the current issue of the journal Weed Science focuses on a biotype of bluegrass found at the Humboldt Country Club in Humboldt, Tennessee. This course had been treated with glyphosate once each winter for nearly 20 years to kill bluegrass weeds while the course’s bermudagrass turf was dormant.

Turfgrass managers have selected glyphosate as an economic and effective choice for weed management. Other herbicides have not been used as often for weed control, and so many grasses are repeatedly treated with glyphosate. As a result, these weeds have become resistant to this herbicide.

Researchers collected samples of glyphosate-resistant bluegrass from the Tennessee golf course. They then tested this grass and samples known to still be susceptible to the herbicide. In laboratory experiments, the susceptible samples showed a higher chemical concentration than did the resistant species.

In the greenhouse, the samples were treated with six different concentrations of glyphosate. While the susceptible sample was 95 percent controlled at half the concentration that had been used on the golf course, the resistant sample was only 76 percent controlled at the highest concentration tested—eight times more than that used on the golf course.

Bluegrass is a self-pollinating species. Therefore, pollen dispersal or seed movement that would spread the resistant traits developed in this biotype is unlikely. But strategies for alternative weed control are needed to prevent new resistant biotypes from developing.

Full text of the article, “A Glyphosate-Resistant Biotype of Annual Bluegrass in Tennessee,” Weed Science, Vol. 60, No. 1, January-March 2012, is available at  http://www.wssajournals.org/