Palmer Amaranth ID of seed or plant tissue and Herbicide Resistance Testing at the University of Illinois Plant Clinic

Are you having trouble with Palmer amaranth? We have something new for you.

NEW Palmer ID test available this year: We spent a long winter optimizing a new assay in collaboration with Dr. Pat Tranel’s lab to aide in Palmer amaranth ID. Contamination of seed mixes with Palmer amaranth became a wide-spread issue last year. Efforts to determine if a seed mixture is contaminated can be hampered by low germination rates and slow grow outs in greenhouse tests. A new molecular assay to confirm the presence or absence of Palmer amaranth in sample seed or leaf tissue is now being offered by the University of Illinois Plant Clinic. Up to 100 Amaranthus spp. seeds, or 5 plants, can be tested as a single mixed sample. To submit plant tissue, remove the top two inches of young, healthy, newly-emerged leaves from suspect Palmer amaranth plants. Only Amaranthus spp. seeds are accepted for testing; if you have a seed sample containing forbes, grasses, etc., please contact the Illinois Crop Improvement Association at (217) 356-4053 for assistance in separating the Amaranthus seed.

Figure 1:

Figure 1:  Waterhemp leaf extract prior to DNA extraction. University of Illinois Plant Clinic photo

Herbicide Resistance testing: The University of Illinois Plant Clinic also continues to offer herbicide resistance testing in waterhemp and Palmer amaranth in 2017, Figure 1. This is the third year the service has been offered at the Plant Clinic. Samples are tested using molecular assays for common modes of action for both glyphosate and PPO-inhibitor herbicide resistance. Currently, only waterhemp and Palmer amaranth are accepted for this type of testing. To sample, remove the top two inches of plants that have survived an application of glyphosate and/or PPO-inhibitor herbicides. Young, healthy, newly-emerged leaves are ideal for submissions. We recommend submitting five plants per field. Results are given on a per-field basis.

For results from last year’s tests, please see:

The fee for each service is $50 per sample. For additional information about how to sample, please see our flyer: and the molecular sample submission form:

Authors: Diane Plewa and Suzanne Bissonnette

2016 University of Illinois Plant Clinic Herbicide Resistance Report

Glyphosate and PPO inhibitor Summary: 593 field samples representing approximately 2,000 waterhemp or palmer amaranth plants were tested for herbicide resistance at the University of Illinois Plant Clinic in the 2016 season. The Plant Clinic started offering herbicide resistance testing of waterhemp for resistance to two groups of herbicides (glyphosate and PPO inhibitors) in 2015. We added palmer amaranth testing in 2016.  Almost twice as many whole fields were tested 2016 compared to last year, 593 vs. 338.  The tests use qPCR protocols to determine if the most common site of action for resistance to these two groups of herbicide is present in the plants.

Samples from 10 states across the Midwest were submitted in 2016. The following chart details the number of field samples from each state, along with the number of fields that were positive for glyphosate resistance and PPO inhibitor resistance.  Fields with plants that are positive for both glyphosate and PPO inhibitor resistance are of particular concern due to the limited possibilities for control of these weeds.

2016 University of Illinois Plant Clinic Herbicide resistance testing results.
State No. of Field samples No. of Glyphosate resistant fields No. of PPO Inhibitor resistant fields No. of Fields Positive for both Glyphosate and PPO Inhibitor resistance % of Fields Positive for both Glyphosate and PPO Inhibitor resistance  
IL 378 280 244 182 48.1 %
IA 87 77 70 65 74.7 %
IN 9 9 6 6 66.6 %
KS 1 1 0 0 0 %
KY 3 1 1 0 0 %
MI 1 0 1 0 0 %
MN 78 58 34 27 34.6 %
MO 11 10 10 9 81.8 %
NE 8 5 1 0 0 %
WI 17 15 4 2 11.8 %

In Illinois, we received samples from 52 counties that had at least one sampled field that had waterhemp or palmer amaranth plants that tested resistant to both glyphosate and PPO inhibitors.


Palmer amaranth issues: Until the 2016 season, palmer amaranth in Illinois was not known to be resistant to PPO inhibitors.  However, several samples from southwestern Illinois were confirmed to be PPO inhibitor resistant (3 from Madison,  and 1 from St. Clair counties) in our testing.

Due to difficulties in positively identifying related amaranth species, and concern regarding possible contamination of seed with amaranth weed seeds including palmer amaranth, the Plant Clinic is now offering a molecular identification service to positively identify palmer amaranth. This protocol was adapted and tested in fall of 2016, and will be offered to the public starting in 2017.   Find our sample forms for this testing on the Plant Clinic website.

Authors: Diane Plewa and Suzanne Bissonnette