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Plant Chemical Roundup

May 12, 2006

We learn about a tiny weed that may be wreaking havoc in your backyard.


A tree-killing weed. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

An invasive plant called the garlic mustard is killing soil fungi in at least thirty states and Canada, and is spreading quickly. If you don’t much care about soil fungi, you should know that hardwood trees depend on them for essential nutrients. A new study found that the garlic mustard thrives in the open areas of forests. It secretes fungus-killing chemicals into the soil, which leads to the death of young trees that would otherwise compete with the plants.

In other plant news, Penn State researchers are developing types of corn that produce an enzyme that’s lethal to caterpillars. It was discovered in insect-resistant strains of corn found on the island of Antigua. The team hopes to selectively breed the trait into commercial crops. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.