Plant Pathogens Help Fight Weeds

September 8, 2006 - 08:07

Plant pathology researchers have found that plant pathogens can be used as an eco-friendly tool to help growers fight weeds, which are capable of causing serious ecological problems and can cause costly crop damage.

“The use of plant pathogens to suppress weeds is considered as one of the alternative weed control options for areas or production systems where the use of chemical herbicides is not permitted or feasible,” said Erin Rosskopf, USDA, Agriculture Research Service.

“Plant pathogens may also be used when the herbicide selection or usage must be rotated with other control methods in order to prevent the development of resistant weeds or lessen the impact of herbicides on the environment,” Rosskopf said.

Rosskopf said there are two different methods for using plant pathogens to manage weeds — a biological control technique and a bioherbicide technique. The biological control method uses pathogens imported from a foreign location to control a native or naturalized weed with very little technological manipulation. The bioherbicide method uses native plant pathogens that are isolated from weeds and are grown to produce large quantities of infective propagules. These propagules can be applied at rates that will cause high levels of infection to reduce growth or even kill the target weed before economic losses are incurred.

For more information on using plant pathogens to control weeds, go to www.apsnet.org/online/feature/weed1.

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