Compound from wild tomatoes is natural, effective herbicide

Apr 25, 2012

(Phys.org) -- A naturally occurring compound derived from wild tomato plants is also a fast-acting, nontoxic herbicide, according to researchers at North Carolina State University.

NC State entomologist Dr. Mike Roe had previously worked with the compound – known as 2-undecanone – as a natural replacement for the chemical DEET in insect repellents. Both he and his NC State colleague, entomologist Dr. George Kennedy, were exploring whether 2-undecanone could be used as an insecticide on plants, when they noticed an unexpected side effect: it killed the plants.

“The discovery was a bit unexpected – we were taking this chemical from a plant, so we didn’t expect it to have herbicidal qualities,” Kennedy says. “But in the wild tomato where 2-undecanone naturally occurs, it is held in tiny hairs all over the vine and fruit, so it never actually comes into contact with the plant itself.” This serendipitous discovery led the researchers to do some further testing, and they found that 2-undecanone provides both  effective and fast-acting weed control. It seems to interfere with a plant’s ability to retain moisture, which kills it quickly.

“On a warm sunny day, you can apply this to a weed and it will be withered and dead within as little as 30 minutes,” Roe says. “It retains its effectiveness even in winter, when other herbicides tend to lose potency. Additionally, the chemical is volatile, meaning that it dissipates after 30 minutes.”

Roe and Kennedy believe that the compound has multiple potential uses: in the organic farming industry, by homeowners for outdoor weed control, by home gardeners and in larger agricultural operations.  “You’ve got something here that is already approved by the Environmental Protection Agency as an insect repellent safe enough for application to human skin,” Roe says. “The herbicidal effects occur with an even lower concentration of the active compound. Plus, it kills plants in minutes and then dissipates, so you don’t have to worry about soil or groundwater contamination.

“What more do you need? You’re fighting plants with – it’s perfect.”

Explore further: Sloth guts are designed for hanging upside down, study finds

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Wheat bacteria may ward off plant disease

Apr 03, 2012

A Flinders University researcher is digging deep to discover how certain bacterial strains found in wheat can stimulate a plant’s natural defence fighting mechanisms.

Major breakthrough on how viruses infect plants

Jul 14, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- CSIRO plant scientists have shed light on a problem that has puzzled researchers since the first virus was discovered in 1892 – how exactly do they cause disease?

Recommended for you

New critter discovered on whale carcass

23 hours ago

A new species of bug, similar in appearance to the common woodlouse, has been found plastered all over a whale carcass on the floor of the deep Southern Ocean.

Some cows' infertility linked to Y chromosome

Apr 22, 2014

In the beef industry, if a cow does not get pregnant after breeding, she becomes an economic liability in the herd. Lack of calf production can significantly reduce annual revenue for producers.

User comments : 0

More news stories

In the 'slime jungle' height matters

(Phys.org) —In communities of microbes, akin to 'slime jungles', cells evolve not just to grow faster than their rivals but also to push themselves to the surface of colonies where they gain the best access ...

New alfalfa variety resists ravenous local pest

(Phys.org) —Cornell plant breeders have released a new alfalfa variety with some resistance against the alfalfa snout beetle, which has ravaged alfalfa fields in nine northern New York counties and across ...

Former Iron Curtain still barrier for deer

The Iron Curtain was traced by an electrified barbed-wire fence that isolated the communist world from the West. It was an impenetrable Cold War barrier—and for some inhabitants of the Czech Republic it ...

Rainbow trout genome sequenced

Using fish bred at Washington State University, an international team of researchers has mapped the genetic profile of the rainbow trout, a versatile salmonid whose relatively recent genetic history opens ...

Robot scouts rooms people can't enter

(Phys.org) —Firefighters, police officers and military personnel are often required to enter rooms with little information about what dangers might lie behind the door. A group of engineering students at ...