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posted by janrinok on Thursday May 25 2023, @11:42AM   Printer-friendly

Weed killers of the future could soon be based on failed antibiotics:

A molecule that was initially developed to treat tuberculosis but failed to progress out of the lab as an antibiotic is now showing promise as a powerful foe for weeds that invade our gardens and cost farmers billions of dollars each year.

While the failed antibiotic wasn't fit for its original purpose, scientists at the University of Adelaide discovered that by tweaking its structure, the molecule became effective at killing two of the most problematic weeds in Australia, annual ryegrass and wild radish, without harming bacterial and human cells. This research has been published in the journal Communications Biology.

"This discovery is a potential game changer for the agricultural industry. Many weeds are now resistant to the existing herbicides on the market, costing farmers billions of dollars each year," said lead researcher Dr. Tatiana Soares da Costa from the University of Adelaide's Waite Research Institute.

"Using failed antibiotics as herbicides provides a short-cut for faster development of new, more effective weed killers that target damaging and invasive weeds that farmers find hard to control."

Researchers at the University's Herbicide and Antibiotic Innovation Lab discovered there were similarities between bacterial superbugs and weeds at a molecular level.

They exploited these similarities, and by chemically modifying the structure of a failed antibiotic, they were able to block the production of amino acid lysine, which is essential for weed growth.

"There are no commercially available herbicides on the market that work in this way. In fact, in the past 40 years, there have been hardly any new herbicides with new mechanisms of action that have entered the market," said Dr. Andrew Barrow, a postdoctoral researcher in Dr. Soares da Costa's team at the University of Adelaide's Waite Research Institute.

[...] It's not just farmers who could reap the benefits of this discovery. Researchers say it could also lead to the development of new weed killers to target pesky weeds growing in our backyards and driveways.

"Our re-purposing approach has the potential to discover herbicides with broad applications that can kill a variety of weeds," said Dr. Barrow.

Journal Reference:
Mackie, Emily R. R., Barrow, Andrew S., Giel, Marie-Claire, et al. Repurposed inhibitor of bacterial dihydrodipicolinate reductase exhibits effective herbicidal activity [open], Communications Biology (DOI: 10.1038/s42003-023-04895-y)

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  • (Score: 1) by openlyretro on Thursday May 25 2023, @03:42PM (1 child)

    by openlyretro (17998) on Thursday May 25 2023, @03:42PM (#1308130)

    Good luck countering ryegrass or any grasses designed for lawns. They have been engineered and selectively bred to be incredibly tough to destroy. Bayer, etc, have put tons of money into their designer grass products. Don't expect them to go away so easily.

    I don't condone spraying. To eliminate grasses they should be shaded. But even so, many lawn grasses are shade tolerant. As a long-time gardener I can share it is impossible to completely eliminate grass naturally from somewhere. It will always keep sprouting back. And if not, more grass seeds will blow in, or be dropped by passing birds.

    Fun trivia, crabgrass was initially marketed as a great way to feed animals. Now people consider it undesirable in their lawns and gardens. It's fantastically good at spreading after being chopped, crushed, torn apart ... surviving all what animals would do to a field of crabgrass.

    Industrial ag is profiting from problems created by its own products. It is good at that. So it never ends.

  • (Score: 2, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 25 2023, @06:51PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 25 2023, @06:51PM (#1308177)

    > Industrial ag is profiting from problems created by its own products. It is good at that. So it never ends.

    This is a feature of life not of any industrial product. Even the giant lizards survived in some form despite being hit with meteorite.