As all herbicides act on pathways or processes crucial to plants, in an inhibitory or stimulatory way, low doses of any herbicide might be used to beneficially modulate plant growth, development, or composition. Glyphosate, the most used herbicide in the world, is widely applied at low rates to ripen sugarcane. Low rates of glyphosate also can stimulate plant growth (this effect is called hormesis). When applied at recommended rates for weed control, glyphosate can inhibit rust diseases in glyphosate-resistant wheat and soybean. Fluridone blocks carotenoid biosynthesis by inhibition of phytoene desaturase and is effective in reducing the production of abscisic acid in drought-stressed plants. Among the acetolactate synthase inhibitors, sulfometuron-methyl is widely used to ripen sugarcane and imidazolinones can be used to suppress turf species growth. The application of protoporphyrinogen oxidase inhibitors can trigger plant defenses against pathogens. Glufosinate, a glutamine synthetase inhibitor, is also known to improve the control of plant diseases. Auxin agonists (i.e., dicamba and 2,4-D) are effective, low-cost plant growth regulators. Currently, auxin agonists are still used in tissue cultures to induce somatic embryogenesis and to control fruit ripening, to reduce drop of fruits, to enlarge fruit size, or to extend the harvest period in citrus orchards. At low doses, triazine herbicides stimulate growth through beneficial effects on nitrogen metabolism and through auxin-like effects. Thus, sublethal doses of several herbicides have applications other than weed control.
Nomenclature: 2,4-D; dicamba; fluridone; glyphosate; imazpic; lactofen; simazine; sulfometuron-methyl; soybean, Glycine max (L.) Merr.; sugarcane, Saccharum spontaneum L.; wheat, Triticum aestivum L.