Herbicidal activities of clove oil and its primary constituent eugenol on broccoli, common lambsquarters, and redroot pigweed and the role of crystalline leaf epicuticular wax (LEW) in susceptibility and retention of these essential oils were studied. Clove oil (2.5%) and eugenol (1.5%) were applied to leaves of greenhouse-grown broccoli, common lambsquarters, and redroot pigweed seedlings and effects on seedling growth and leaf cell membrane integrity were studied. Compared with eugenol, clove oil caused greater inhibition of seedling growth in all species. Both eugenol and clove oil caused greater loss of membrane integrity and inhibition of seedling growth in redroot pigweed, which has no crystalline LEW, compared with common lambsquarters, which has a thick layer of crystalline LEW. In broccoli seedlings with LEW, clove oil caused greater inhibition of growth than eugenol. Both clove oil and eugenol caused greater electrolyte leakage from broccoli leaves without LEW than in the leaves with LEW. Removal of LEW increased electrolyte leakage, an indicator of cell membrane damage, by 97% in eugenol-treated and 26% in clove oil–treated broccoli leaves. Susceptibility of broccoli seedlings and possibly some weed species may, therefore, be affected by factors (e.g., genetic, environmental) that influence the amount of LEW. Although the presence of LEW greatly reduced the retention of the essential oil solutions, there was no significant difference between the retention of clove oil and eugenol solutions, indicating that differences in their phytotoxicity to broccoli leaves was not due to differential foliar retention.
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