Safeners are chemical agents that reduce the phytotoxicity of herbicides to crop plants by a physiological or molecular mechanism, without compromising weed control efficacy. Commercialized safeners are used for the protection of large-seeded grass crops, such as corn, grain sorghum, and wet-sown rice, against preplant-incorporated or preemergence-applied herbicides of the thiocarbamate and chloroacetanilide families. Safeners also have been developed to protect winter cereal crops such as wheat against postemergence applications of aryloxyphenoxypropionate and sulfonylurea herbicides. The use of safeners for the protection of corn and rice against sulfonylurea, imidazolinone, cyclohexanedione, isoxazole, and triketone herbicides also is well established. A safener-induced enhancement of herbicide detoxification in safened plants is widely accepted as the major mechanism involved in safener action. Safeners induce cofactors such as glutathione and herbicide-detoxifying enzymes such as glutathione S-transferases, cytochrome P450 monooxygenases, and glucosyl transferases. In addition, safeners enhance the vacuolar transport of glutathione or glucose conjugates of selected herbicides. The safener-mediated induction of herbicide-detoxifying enzymes appears to be part of a general stress response.
Nomenclature: Corn, Zea mays L.; grain sorghum, Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench; rice, Oryza sativa L.; wheat, Triticum aestivum L.