Italy: Essential oils extracted from weeds used as a natural herbicide

A natural herbicide against weeds made with essential oils extracted from weeds themselves. It was developed by a group of Agricultural Science and Pharmacy researchers from the University of Pisa. Their study was published on the Weed Research journal.

Photo 1. Distribution of the essential oils on weeds grown in a vase.

The initial idea was to assess the effectiveness of natural substances against weeds to control them in an environmentally sustainable manner, especially in light of the prohibitions and/or limitations in using some conventional herbicides (glyphosate in particular) due to their environmental impact and risk for human health.

Photo 2. Artemisia verlotiorum, a common weed that contains essential oils that can be used as a herbicide.

"Nobody had ever thought of using the essential oils extracted by weeds against them. It's a solution that would pose some economic advantages as well, as these plants have low agronomic costs especially as regards water. Paradoxically, spontaneous species that have no use can become friends of man and of the environment."

Photo 3. Some essential oils extracted from weeds ready to be tested as herbicides.

The research lasted three years and was conducted both in the lab and in greenhouses. It identified five species from which particularly effective essential oils can be extracted: yarrow (Achillea millefolium), sweet wormwood (Artemisia annua), Chinese mugwort (Artemisia verlotiorum), cotton weed (Otanthus maritimus) and rough cocklebur (Xanthium strumarium).

Photo 4. Distribution of the essential oil with a specific tool.

"These natural herbicides can be used just like traditional ones both before and after planting. They could also be used in cities for pavements and road edges where weeds are often found." 

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