Herbicide mixtures at high doses slow the evolution of resistance in experimentally evolving populations of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii

Mato Lagator*, Tom Vogwill, Andrew Mead, Nick Colegrave, Paul Neve

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Citations (Scopus)


The widespread evolution of resistance to herbicides is a pressing issue in global agriculture. Evolutionary principles and practices are key to the management of this threat to global food security. The application of mixtures of herbicides has been advocated as an anti-resistance strategy, without substantial empirical support for its validation. We evolved experimentally populations of the unicellular green chlorophyte, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, to minimum inhibitory concentrations (MICs) of single-herbicide modes of action and to pair-wise and three-way mixtures between different herbicides at various total combined doses. Herbicide mixtures were most effective when each component was applied at or close to its MIC. When doses were high, increasing the number of mixture components was also effective in reducing the evolution of resistance. Employing mixtures at low combined doses did not retard resistance evolution, even accelerating the evolution of resistance to some components. At low doses, increasing the number of herbicides in the mixture tended to select for more generalist resistance (cross-resistance). Our results reinforce findings from the antibiotic resistance literature and confirm that herbicide mixtures can be very effective for resistance management, but that mixtures should only be employed where the economic and environmental context permits the applications of high combined doses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)938-945
Number of pages8
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number3
Early online date25 Feb 2013
Publication statusPublished - May 2013

Bibliographical note

The authors would like to thank Andrew Morgan, John Lynch and Carol Evered for their much appreciated contributions. The project was funded by the Leverhulme Trust.


  • Chlamydomonas reinhardtii
  • experimental evolution
  • herbicide mixtures
  • herbicide resistance
  • resistance management


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