Radicinin, a fungal phytotoxin as a target-specific bioherbicide for invasive buffelgrass (Cenchrus ciliaris) control.
The fungal pathogens Cochliobolus australiensis and Pyricularia grisea have recently been isolated from diseased leaves of buffelgrass (Cenchrus ciliaris) in its North American range, and their ability to produce phytotoxic metabolites that could potentially be used as natural herbicides against this invasive weed was investigated. Fourteen secondary metabolites obtained from in vitro cultures of these two pathogens were tested by leaf puncture assay on the host plant at different concentrations. Radicinin and (10S, 11S)-epi-pyriculol proved to be the most promising compounds. Thus, their phytotoxic activity was also evaluated on non-host indigenous plants. Radicinin demonstrated high target-specific toxicity on buffelgrass, low toxicity to native plants, and no teratogenic, sub-lethal, or lethal effects on zebrafish (Brachydanio rerio) embryos. It is now under consideration for the development of a target-specific bioherbicide to be used against buffelgrass in natural systems where synthetic herbicides cause excessive damage to native plants.