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Research Indicates Weed Killer Has Unintended Consequences

Purdue University professors Angus Murphy and Wendy Peer, partnering with scientists at the Institute of Experimental Botany at the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, have revealed the mechanism by which the popular weed killer 2,4-D also harms grass plants, in addition to killing the surrounding weeds.

Since the mid 1940s, 2,4-D’s claim to fame is that it kills dicot weeds such as plantain and dandelions, but allows grass plants to live. In a press release posted two days ago on the Purdue web site, the professors revealed that the application of 2,4-D — the primary ingredient in many weed ‘n feed products for lawns, as well as myriad weed products for agriculture — reduces the vigor and length of root hairs on grass plants.

That means that 2,4-D likely has the unintended consequence of requiring the application of more water and fertilizer for a plant to achieve optimum health.

Many of us in the fields of landscaping and horticulture have observed this effect for years, but the Purdue study is the first to unlock this key reason behind the phenomenon.

This finding should send shock waves through agriculture, which has been hurtling toward using even more 2,4-D in recent months in response to the fact that weeds are developing so much resistance to Roundup. The Dow chemical company announced last March that it planned to genetically modify plants to resist 2,4-D — which means far more 2,4-D will wind up in the soil. Because we now know that 2,4-D causes plants to require more inputs, food will become more expensive to produce.

It’s all part of a vicious cycle of more and more chemical inputs — one that can only be stopped by a wholesale adoptance of natural, organic technique and products.

About The Author

Paul Tukey

An international leader of the green movement, Mr. Tukey is a journalist, author, filmmaker, TV host, activist and award-winning public speaker, who is widely recognized as North America's leading advocate for landscape sustainability and toxic pesticide reduction strategies.

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