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September 06, 1991 - Image 66

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-09-06

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

4 11011~110 ~imiwarm~~^..

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66 FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 6, 1991

Professors Warshawsky and Gressel at the Weizmann Institute
of Science.

Weizmann Research
Cuts Herbicide Use

Rehovot, Israel — The
amount of herbicide needed to
prevent the growth of weeds
may be dramatically reduced
in the near future, thanks to
a new weed-fighting strategy
developed at the Weizmann
Institute- of Science by Pro-
fessor Jonathan Gressel, Dr.
Yoseph Shaaltiel, and Dr.
Abraham Warshawsky.
The approach involves the
simultaneous application of
an ordinary herbicide along
with a special chemical agent
designed to knock out a
weed's normal defenses
against herbicides.
The scientists found, in
greenhouse experiments with
the new mixture, that weed
growth can be prevented us-
ing only a quarter to half as
much herbicide as is ordinari-
ly needed. Moreover, this
stragegy is likely to delay the
apperance of herbicide
resistance in weeds by at least
five to 15 years.
In addition to saving
farmers' money, the new her-
bicide mixture should also
reduce the risk of en-
vironmental damage caused
by the widespread use of
chemicals in the soil.
It is intended to be used in
what is known as conserva-
tion tillage to clear fields of
weeds before planting crops.
It serves as an alternative to
ploughing and cultivating
which can promote soil
erosion.
The herbicide additives,
synthesized by Dr. Warshaw-
sky and his teams, are based
on the research of herbicide
expert Professor Gressel and

his ex-student Dr. Shaaltiel.
Many herbicides produce
"chemical bullets," called
hydroxyl radicals, that usual-
ly destroy weeds. The scien-
tists found that weeds are
able to use certain enzymes
that act a sheild against these
bullets.
As the enzymes are known
to require certain trace
metals in order to work, the
researchers theorized that the
removal of such metals would
block enzyme activity and
sabotage the weeds' ability to
overcome the herbicides.
The scientists then ap-
proached Dr. Warshawsky,
who is well known for his
work in the field of selective
molecules for metal binding.
Together, they developed
chemical agents, known as
chelators, that remove these
metals from weeds' enzymes,
thus inactivating them. Dr.
Warshawsky also found a way
to make the chemical agents
work in synchronization with
the herbicide. In order to be
effective, both the chelator
and herbicide must penetrate
the plant leaf simultaneously.
In experiments carried out
in Weizmann Institute
laboratories and greenhouses,
the chemical agent proved
highly effective when applied
with several herbicides, in-
cluding widely used para-
quat. The scientists say the
chelators can be easily
adapted to work with many
herbicides.
The research is supported
by Israel's National Council
for Research and Develop-
ment.

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