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Open AccessArticle

Activity of Ailanthus altissima (Mill.) Swingle Extract as a Potential Bioherbicide for Sustainable Weed Management in Horticulture

1
Department of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences, University of Torino, Largo Paolo Braccini 2, 10095 Grugliasco, Italy
2
Department of Chemistry and NIS Centre, University of Torino, Via P. Giuria 7, 10125 Torino, Italy
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Both authors contributed equally to this work.
Agronomy 2020, 10(7), 965; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy10070965
Received: 30 April 2020 / Revised: 29 June 2020 / Accepted: 1 July 2020 / Published: 4 July 2020
The sustainable management of weeds is one of the main challenges in agriculture. Recent studies have demonstrated the potential of plant phytotoxins, such as ailanthone from Ailanthus altissima (Mill) Swingle, as bioherbicides. Since a complex extract may be more active than a single compound, we explored the phytotoxicity of A. altissima extracts obtained from the leaves, samaras, rachises, and secondary roots, and we evaluated their application potential for weed control in horticulture. The pre-emergence activity of all plant extracts was evaluated over varying concentrations on two indicator species (i.e., Lepidium sativum L. and Raphanus sativus L.) under controlled conditions. As the leaf extract was able to be generated in sufficient quantities, it was therefore further evaluated in glasshouse experiments with seven common weed species as indicators, as well as in a nursery production system for the cultivation of three horticultural crops (i.e., Salvia officinalis L., S. rosmarinus Schleid., and Dianthus caryophyllus L.). Following the application of the extract, the index of germination (IGe%), the index of biomass, and the density of weeds per pot were evaluated, along with the impact on crop growth and quality (i.e., plant growth index and leaf damage). Under controlled conditions, the extract from the secondary root was the most active in reducing the IGe%, with greater persistence across time in both indicator species. At 18 days following application, the lowest concentration of the leaf extract at 1.8 mg L−1 ailanthone reduced the IGe%by up to 15% and 45% in R. sativus and L. sativum, respectively. In R. sativus, all of the extract types affected the IGe%, but extract activity was greater in L. sativum. Under glasshouse conditions, leaf extracts containing 50 and 200 mg L−1 ailanthone showed strong inhibition (98%–99%) in the biomass of all treated indicator and weed species. Under nursery conditions, leaf extracts formulated at 100 and 200 mg L−1 ailanthone performed similarly, and no weeds were observed in any of the treated pots of S. officinalis and S. rosmarinus in the 60-day study period. Conversely, in the D. caryophyllus pots, an increase in the percentage of weed presence per pot was observed after 40 days. A reduction in the growth index and an increase in leaf phytotoxicity were observed during the cultivation experimentation, especially in S. officinalis when the extract was applied post-emergence to the crop canopy. Phytotoxicity was alleviated by the application of the extract directly to the soil or growth media. These results provide new insights into A. altissima extracts and their phytotoxicity to support their additional use as a sustainable solution for weed management in horticultural crops. View Full-Text
Keywords: ailanthone; bioherbicides; phytotoxicity; weed control ailanthone; bioherbicides; phytotoxicity; weed control
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Caser, M.; Demasi, S.; Caldera, F.; Dhakar, N.K.; Trotta, F.; Scariot, V. Activity of Ailanthus altissima (Mill.) Swingle Extract as a Potential Bioherbicide for Sustainable Weed Management in Horticulture. Agronomy 2020, 10, 965.

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