2018 ACS International Award for Research in Agrochemicals

Sponsored by Corteva Agriscience

Role of P450s in Broad-Spectrum Multiple Herbicide Resistance in Weeds

Stephen Powles is the Director of the Australian Herbicide Resistance Initiative (AHRI) and Professor at the University of Western Australia. AHRI is a 20 person multi-disciplinary team, ranging from agronomists to molecular biologists and communicators, focused on the major problem of herbicide resistant weeds in Australian agriculture. In focusing on herbicide resistance, Powles has built on his crop science degrees (BS from Western Sydney University, MS from Michigan State University) and his physiology/biochemistry PhD and postdocs (PhD from Australian National University, postdocs at Stanford University and the University of Paris). During his postdoc years in the USA and in France, Powles became aware of early cases of herbicide resistance evolution in plants (weedy species).

Herbicide resistance was a miniscule issue in the early 1980s, but Stephen correctly judged that herbicide resistance would become a major issue in global agriculture. He resolved to apply his agronomic and biochemical expertise to this emerging problem. As herbicide resistance exploded firstin his native Australia and then in North America and elsewhere, Stephen had built multi-disciplinary research teams that tackled problems at many levels, from fundamental research to practical on-farm solutions. For 33 years, he has led large research teams making major advances ranging from on-farm management to elucidating the precise details of molecular mutations responsible for resistance. Stephen and colleagues have published 250 research papers, and he has edited two books on herbicide resistance. He is widely recognized as the global leader in herbicide resistance research.

For his research achievements, Stephen was elected to the Australian Academy of Science and the Australian Academy of Technology & Engineering. For many years, he has been one of the world’s most highly cited scientists. Stephen is strongly committed to communication of research and achieving adoption of technology through his presentations, use of social media platforms, and a willingness to utilize his research funds to employ professional communicators. Through this combination of conducting leading research and major commitment to communication, Stephen and his colleagues have made major contributions to understanding and managing herbicide
resistance in global crop production.