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A herbicide, commonly known as a weedkiller, is a type of pesticide used to kill unwanted plants.[1] Selective herbicides kill specific targets while leaving the desired crop relatively unharmed. Some of these act by interfering with the growth of the weed and are often synthetic "imitations" of plant hormones. Herbicides used to clear waste ground, industrial sites, railways and railway embankments are non-selective and kill all plant material with which they come into contact. Smaller quantities are used in forestry, pasture systems, and management of areas set aside as wildlife habitat.

Some plants produce natural herbicides, such as the genus Juglans (walnuts), or the tree of heaven; the study of such natural herbicides, and other related chemical interactions, is called allelopathy.

Herbicides are widely used in agriculture and in landscape turf management. In the U.S., they account for about 70% of all agricultural pesticide use.[1]



Prior to the widespread use of chemical herbicides, cultural controls, such as altering soil pH, salinity, or fertility levels, were used to control weeds. Mechanical control (including tillage) was also (and still is) used to control weeds.

The first widely used herbicide was 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, often abbreviated 2,4-D. It was first commercialized by the Sherwin-Williams Paint company and saw use in the late 1940s. It is easy and inexpensive to manufacture, and kills many broadleaf plants while leaving grasses largely unaffected (although high doses of 2,4-D at crucial growth periods can harm grass crops such as maize or cereals). The low cost of 2,4-D has led to continued usage today and it remains one of the most commonly used herbicides in the world. Like other acid herbicides, current formulations utilize either an amine salt (usually trimethylamine) or one of many esters of the parent compound. These are easier to handle than the acid.

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