Wednesday, January 26, 2011

MU RESEARCHERS: Use germs to control "super weeds"

COLUMBIA, 1/25/11  (Beat Byte) --  Two bacterial enzymes confer resistance to an herbicide called "2,4-D," protecting corn and soybean plants while nearby superweeds -- a huge threat to U.S. agriculture -- get zapped by the powerful weed killer, MU plant sciences researcher Zhanyuan Zhang has discovered with researchers at Dow AgroSciences.

Resistant to other weed killers such as RoundUp, superweeds grow unabated unless farmers plow them under before they suffocate crops.   Once considered a miracle herbicide, Roundup has fallen fast, as weeds have evolved to survive it, growing again across millions of farmland acres. 
Roundup targets amino acid synthesis, but 2,4-D is a hormone regulator, Zhang explained.   "Because it has a different mode of action, 2,4-D is an ideal herbicide to deal with Roundup-resistant weeds," he added, noting that 2,4 D exhibits low toxicity, short persistence in the environment, and economical cost.   And because it's so effective, farmers will use less of it. 
"The less chemicals farmers use in the field, the less money they spend on production," said Zhang. "That leads to less cost for the consumer, as well as improved food safety and environmental safety." 
The Proceedings of the National Academies of Science recently published the MU team's results.

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