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How are herbicides discovered?

MADISON, WI, September 2, 2008 -- A new interactive web lesson teaches upper-level undergraduate students and graduate students how herbicides are developed. The lesson, developed by William E. Dyer, Montana State University, has the seal of approval by the Journal of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Education and is published in the 2008 issue.

Surprisingly, almost all of the herbicides on the market today were discovered by random searching. Collections of chemicals from companies that make dyes, plastics, or other industrial compounds were simply sprayed on plants, and the ones that killed the weeds were developed into commercial products.

This process seems quite inefficient, but it has worked rather well until recently. Now, companies are trying to create "designer herbicides" that will stop a specific pathway inside a weed. The explosion of new biotech information about DNA sequences and protein functions may allow this new method to produce weed killers that are effective and yet safe for our environment.

"I predict that the recent revolution in biotechnology information will significantly improve the way we create pesticides, medicines, and other chemicals," says author William Dyer.

After completing the lesson students will be able to: describe the history of herbicide discovery and development, describe newer techniques currently used to discover and screen herbicides, and understand the advantages and disadvantages of the currently used method.


Contact: Sara Uttech
American Society of Agronomy

Page: 1

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