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Weed Problems Grow with Climate Change

Weed Problems Grow with Climate Change

More carbon dioxide in the air makes poison ivy more toxic and ragweed produces more allergens according to a new book from Purdue University.

A Purdue University scientist's new book explores the interaction between a changing climate and weeds and the steps that might be needed to address new weed problems.

Jeff Dukes, an associate professor of forestry and natural resources at Purdue University has co-authored "Weed Biology and Climate Change" with Lewis H. Ziska, a plant physiologist in the Crop Systems and Global Change Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It brings together literature from across the fields of weed biology and climate change into one book, which Dukes said could be used as a textbook or reference for researchers.

"There are a lot of reasons to expect weeds will become an even bigger issue in a changing climate," Dukes said. "There are a wide variety of weeds that seem to grow well when you add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere."

An example, Dukes says, is that poison ivy becomes more toxic with more carbon dioxide, and ragweed produces more allergens that are released over a longer period. Other weeds become more difficult to kill with current herbicides such as glyphosate.

Areas that once had temperatures that precluded some weed species from surviving may see those weeds start to thrive.

"The hardiness zones of plants have shifted," Dukes says. "Things are growing farther north than we ever expected."

The book opens with overviews of climate change and weed biology and continues with chapters on climate's effect on weed growth and reproduction, weed management, invasive species, ecosystem functioning, and food security. It also addresses how practices will need to adapt to address a changing climate.

The book was published by Wiley-Blackwell and is available on It lists for $149.95.

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