Compound from wild tomatoes is natural, effective herbicide

April 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: Wheat bacteria may ward off plant disease

Related Stories

Wheat bacteria may ward off plant disease

April 3, 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

July 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

Typhoid fever toxin has a sweet tooth

December 11, 2017

Although the insidious bacterium Salmonella typhi has been around for centuries, very little is actually known about its molecular mechanisms. A new study from researchers at the College of Veterinary Medicine addresses this ...

Researchers develop powerful new method for microbiome analysis

December 11, 2017

Scientists from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Sema4, and collaborating institutions New York University and the University of Florida today published a report detailing their new, more accurate method for identifying ...

Yeast can be engineered to create protein pharmaceuticals

December 11, 2017

It took several years, but a research team headed by Professor Jens Nielsen at Chalmers University of Technology has finally succeeded in mapping out the complex metabolism of yeast cells. The breakthrough, recently published ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.