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Organic and inorganic herbicides


Early chemical herbicides were inorganic compounds.  Observation in 1896 that Bordeaux mixture, a fungicide, also provided control of certain weeds, led to the use of copper sulfate as a selective weed killer to control charlock in cereals.  By 1900, solutions of sulfuric acid, iron sulfate, copper nitrate, and ammonium and potassium salts were known to act as selective herbicides; soon thereafter sodium arsenite solutions became the standard herbicides, and they were used in large quantities until about 1960.  Other popular inorganic herbicides include ammonium sulfamate, carbon bisulfide, sodium chlorate, sulfuric acid solutions, and formulations containing borate.  Organic herbicides began in earnest with dinitrophenol compounds in 1932.  A breakthrough occurred in the 1940s with 2,4-D (2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid), a compound similar to plant hormones, which is a highly selective systemic herbicide when used in very small quantities.  2,4-D was quickly adopted to control broadleaved weeds in corn, sorghum, small grains, and grass pastures, as well as in lawns and other ornamental turf.  The phenoxyaliphatic acids and their derivatives, another major group of organic herbicides, succeeded because of their selectivity and ease of translocation.  Other groups of organic herbicides include organic arsenicals, substituted amides and ureas, nitrogen heterocyclic acids, phenol derivatives, triazines, and sulfonylureas.