Lichun Cai, David Comont, Dana MacGregor, Claudia Lowe, Roland Beffa, Christopher Saski, Paul Neve
Globally, weedy plants result in more crop yield loss than plant pathogens and insect pests combined. Much of the success of weeds rests with their ability to rapidly adapt in the face of human-mediated environmental management and change. The evolution of resistance to herbicides is an emblematic example of this rapid adaptation. Here, we focus on Alopecurus myosuroides (blackgrass), the most impactful agricultural weed in Europe. To gain insights into the evolutionary history and genomic mechanisms underlying adaptation in blackgrass, we assembled and annotated its large, complex genome. We show that non-target site herbicide resistance is oligogenic and likely evolves from standing genetic variation. We present evidence for divergent selection of resistance at the level of the genome in wild, evolved populations, though at the transcriptional level, resistance mechanisms are underpinned by similar patterns of up-regulation of stress- and defence-responsive gene families. These gene families are expanded in the blackgrass genome, suggesting that the large, duplicated, and dynamic genome plays a role in enabling rapid adaptation in blackgrass. These observations have wide significance for understanding rapid plant adaptation in novel stressful environments.