Finding natural materials to replace synthetic herbicides

Reflecting on the environmental impacts of synthetic herbicides, the hunt is on for natural materials to replace them. By studying plant species grown for crop rotation and living mulch, Dr. Yinghui Mu is searching for new bioherbicides by analysing how these plants inhibit weed growth. View Halo Profile >>

Tell us about your research

My research field is sustainable agriculture, mainly the farming system. We are especially concerned about crop yield, crop quality, soil health, weed control and GHG emission. Recently, I have honed in on the winter cover crop. Ryegrass and white clover are used as cover crops sowed in the early winter in South China to build a crop rotation system. It is different from other research about cover crops because we also use ryegrass and white clover as living mulch crops coexisting with spring corn. We found living mulch can inhibit weeds in the field, and the residue decomposed under rotary tillage can also inhibit the germination of weed. After the residue is returned into the soil with the rotary, some material is released and inhibits the germination of the weed. We are trying to find that material and see if it can be used as a bioherbicide.

My research field is sustainable agriculture, mainly the farming system. We are especially concerned about crop yield, crop quality, soil health, weed control and GHG emission.

Can you explain that to a non-scientist?

It is similar to the Chinese medical method. When you are sick, the doctor will tell you to take some synthetic medicine. The synthetic medicine can make you better,  but it may be harmful to your body because it is artificial. If I give you a natural plant, it also can make you feel well, but it is not harmful to your body because it is a natural medicine.

Why did you choose this area of research?

It is because of my doctorate supervisor, a Japanese professor at Ibaraki University. Before I went to Japan to study, I was never concerned with agricultural development. As I studied under his guidance, I slowly recognized the importance of agricultural development. It is very important to human life, and from that point, I decided I would do some research on sustainable agriculture.

How could your Grants4Ag project someday impact #healthforall #hungerfornone? 

Synthetic herbicide is not good for agricultural environments because it threatens the development of agriculture. If we cannot plant crops on the field, everything will be gone. That would mean the end of humans. We should protect our environment and our earth for ourselves. According to our research results, some material released from the composed residue can inhibit weed growth. We are trying to find more natural materials to replace synthetic herbicides. 

According to our research results, some material released from the composed residue can inhibit weed growth. We are trying to find more natural materials to replace synthetic herbicides.