A new, natural herbicide


Researchers at the CNRS, Ecole polytechnique and Sorbonne Université1 have discovered the phytotoxic nature of a natural molecule called radulanine A. This compound is produced by liverworts, a type of moss which may produce it to compete with other plant species. Radulanine A could thus be used by humans for its herbicide potential. The findings of this study appeared on 29th April 2019 in Chemistry: A European Journal.

Scientists used chemical synthesis to reproduce radulanine A, avoiding the difficulties of extracting the compound from a natural source. To pinpoint its effect, researchers placed the compound in the substrate of seedlings2 of a model plant viewed as a weed in agriculture. They observed that the seedlings yellowed and quickly died, proving the herbicide effect of radulanine A, at an active dose similar to that of glyphosate, the reference herbicide.

While the possible toxic effects of the molecule on humans and the environment have yet to be tested, such effects may be less important than those of the synthetic herbicides currently used.

A patent application has been filed. The team of scientists plans to focus further research on the mechanisms of the herbicide effects of radulanine A and identify more plant species which could be targeted.


  • 1. The team is composed of researchers from the Laboratoire de synthèse organique (CNRS/Ecole Polytechnique /ENSTA), the Laboratoire “Molécules de communication et adaptation des micro-organismes” (MNHN/CNRS), the Laboratoire de biologie du développement (Sorbonne Université/CNRS) and the Laboratoire de chimie moléculaire (Ecole Polytechnique/CNRS).
  • 2. Plant seedlings following germination

One-Pot Synthesis of Metastable 2,5-Dihydrooxepines Through Retro-Claisen Rearrangements: Methods and Applications. W. Zhang, E. Baudouin, M. Cordier, G. Frison and B. Nay. Chemistry A European Journal 29 April 2019



Bastien Nay
CNRS researcher
Maxime Dos Santos
CNRS press officer