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Gardening Answers Knowledgebase

Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: genetically modified seeds, Weed control, Herbicides

What can you tell me about the weed killer "Concern Weed Prevention Plus"?


This product is corn-gluten based, and it is not meant to work on weeds which are already growing, but on those which have yet to emerge (pre-emergent). Corn gluten meal has been promoted as an environmentally safer alternative to conventional herbicides, but there are still certain issues that bear considering. Research at Oregon State University showed that corn gluten meal did not prevent weed seed germination. Here is an excerpt from the study's findings:
"Corn gluten meal did not control any weeds in any trials under any circumstances over a two-year period. They found no evidence of pre- or post-emergence weed control in any of their trials. Because it contains 10 percent nitrogen, corn gluten meal proved to be a very effective fertilizer, causing lush, dense growth of turfgrass and of weeds in shrub beds."

Although corn gluten meal presents far fewer risks to human and animal health than conventional herbicide, a gardener who is attempting to use only organic methods might consider the source of the corn in these products, which is very likely to be genetically modified. A webpage no longer available from University of Wisconsin Master Gardeners addressed this question:
"Up to 60% of the commercial corn and soybeans in the United States is grown from GMO seed. Corn gluten sold as a preemergent herbicide may indeed contain GMO corn, but it has not yet been tested. Here's the twist. Corn gluten can reduce the need for traditional herbicides that have environmental side effects. It likely now contains GMO corn. It could be produced from non-GMO corn, but would likely be more expensive."

Washington State University professor of horticulture Linda Chalker-Scott has also written about "The Myth of Weed-Killing Gluten," and states that no research suggests this is an effective method of weed control in the Northwest. She recommends sub-irrigation, mulch, and soil solarization instead.

Date 2017-05-04
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Garden Tip

Keywords: Weed control, Organic gardening, Mulching, Herbicides

A common question we get at the Elisabeth C. Miller Library is How do I kill weeds without hand digging but without using toxic chemicals? Further discussion with the gardener reveals he wants to buy a product that he can spray on the weeds, once. Organic gardeners have it easier now compared to a decade ago, with a number of less-toxic weed killers on the market, but the fact is not one of these products is a magic bullet.

  • Corn Gluten Meal (Concern's Weed Prevention Plus and Whitney Farm's Weed Whompin Mulch) is a natural product that prevents seeds from rooting once sprouted. The downside is that it doesn't work during rainy weather. Another consideration is that recent studies show it acts as fertilizer because it is rich in nitrogen, so in garden beds it may actually increase weeds. Its best use would be for weeds in lawns, according to an article in Organic Gardening, Aug/Oct 2008.
  • Potassium salts of fatty acids (Safer Superfast Weed & Grass Killer) kills the tops of all plants, but not the roots. It works best on annual weeds like chick-weed and bitter cress, but would have to be repeated a few times to kill perennial weeds with root reserves, such as dandelion.
  • Pelargonic acid herbicide (Scythe) is another type of fatty acid, similar to soap, that kills weeds by drying out the leaves. As mentioned above this product works best on annual or biennial weeds and must be reapplied a few times to kill perennials.
  • Vinegar from the kitchen doesn't kill weeds, only disfigures them. Commercial products (Burnout, Bradfield's Horticultural 20% Vinegar) work if used in hot weather, but are quite caustic and great caution must be used not to inhale the fumes or spray the skin. Natural, yes, but toxic.
What does it take to get rid of weeds? A multi-pronged approach: physically remove weeds when they are young, reapply mulch every year, shade weeds out with desirable plants, and don't let weeds go to seed.

The Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides publishes excellent articles on non-toxic pest control. Two good articles on weed management are available free online: Managing Weeds in Shrub and Flower Beds and Landscape Weed Control

Date: 2007-04-03
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May 16 2018 11:15:37