Microbiome-Leveraged Organic Herbicide

Invention Summary:

At present, all herbicides are deleterious to human health. There is an unmet need to develop herbicides that are not harmful to people.

Ethylene is a microbe-produced hormone that stimulates plant cell growth. However, in excess, ethylene causes stress in plants due to overproduction of superoxide, a highly potent form of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Thus, the excess ethylene causes plant cells to produce superoxide, resulting in increased oxidative stress in plants that leads to plant death.

Rutgers researchers have developed a natural herbicide composition that kills undesirable plants by causing normally beneficial endophytic microbes (bacteria and fungi) that naturally inhabit plant cells and tissues (roots and shoots) to overgrow and overproduce ethylene. The herbicide consists of a mixture of components that is dissolved or suspended in water and applied to plants with a sprayer. Microbes may be added to the mixture and applied to plants to increase the speed and thoroughness of herbicidal activity.

The herbicide is not harmful to the environment; instead, it may function as a soil fertilizer by stimulation of degradation of weeds by endosymbiotic fungi that release nutrients from standing weed material to the soil where crop plants may access the nutrients, and stimulation of the soil microbiome that grow on components of the herbicide and release additional soil nutrients that may be absorbed by crop plants.


  • Turn a plant’s beneficial microbiome against the plant, resulting in excess oxidative stress and death
  • Organic and environmentally safe
  • Function as a soil fertilizer

Market Applications:

  • Organic and environmentally safe herbicide

Intellectual Property & Development Status: Patent pending. Available for licensing and/or research collaboration.


Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Deborah Perez
Associate Director, Physical Sciences & Ag
Rutgers University