Laboratory and greenhouse experiments were conducted to determine the herbicidal effect of plant-derived oils and to identify the active ingredient in an oil with herbicide activity. Twenty-five different oils were applied to detached leaves of dandelion in the laboratory. Essential oils (1%, v/v) from red thyme, summer savory, cinnamon, and clove were the most phytotoxic and caused electrolyte leakage resulting in cell death. Each of these essential oils in aqueous concentrations from 5 to 10% (v/v) plus two adjuvants (nonionic surfactant and paraffinic oil blend at 0.2% [v/v]) were applied to shoots of common lambsquarters, common ragweed, and johnsongrass in the greenhouse; shoot death occurred within 1 h to 1 d after application. Essential oil of cinnamon had high herbicidal activity, and eugenol (2-methoxy-4-[2-propenyl]phenol) was determined to be this oil's major component (84%, v/v). Dandelion leaf disk and whole-plant assays verified that eugenol was the active ingredient in the essential oil of cinnamon. Essential oils are extracted from plants and thus may be useful as “natural product herbicides” for organic farming systems.
Nomenclature: Cinnamon, Cinnamomum zeylanicum; clove, Syzgium aromaticum; red thyme, Thymus vulgaris; summer savory, Satureja hortensis; common lambsquarters, Chenopodium album L. CHEAL; common ragweed, Ambrosia artemisiifolia L. AMBEL; dandelion, Taraxacum officinale Weber in Wiggers TAROF; johnsongrass, Sorghum halepense (L.) Pers. SORHA.