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Friday, August 12, 2022

Lettuce: an option as a herbicide

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Quitzé Fernández
Quitzé Fernándezhttps://www.amonite.com.mx
Amonite es un sitio dedicado a la divulgación científica para niños y jóvenes. Somos un grupo de amigos que escucha, cuenta historias y las plasma en algo parecido a un papel. Por medio de la ilustración y los medios audiovisuales buscamos acercar las novedades de ciencia y tecnología con un lenguaje accesible para todos. Amonite es un proyecto binacional editado y diseñado entre México y Argentina. Nace en 2017 a iniciativa de Quitzé Fernández, quien obtuvo en 2013 el Premio Nacional de Periodismo y Divulgación Científica, convocado por el Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología de México (Conacyt), con la crónica La mujer que encontró dinosaurios en el patio de su casa. A él se unieron los ilustradores Daniel Galindo y Jess Silva, que han generado trabajo visual para diarios e instituciones del norte de México; y más adelante los periodistas José Juan Zapata y Jessica Jaramillo, en la edición y generación de contenido, desde Buenos Aires, Argentina. Todos ellos forman parte del staff permanente de Amonite, junto a un grupo de colaboradores que aportan sus visiones periodísticas, visuales y literarias del mundo de la ciencia.

Photo: Jean-Michel Moullec / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

UAdeC researchers are developing a project that will allow the use of lettuce residues to produce environmentally friendly herbicides.

By: Laura Puentes

Herbicides are used worldwide in different crops to prevent weeds from growing in crops. However, they can have harmful effects not only on crops, but also on animals and humans.

However, a project by researchers from Coahuila could be a great advance towards the use of biodegradable products for rural communities in the municipalities of Ramos Arizpe and Saltillo. It is a herbicide made from extracts of lechuguilla agave and leaves (Flourensia Cernua).

The project was developed by the Autonomous University of Coahuila (UAdeC) in conjunction with the Research Center for the Conservation of Biodiversity and Ecology (CICBEC), the National Institute for Agricultural and Livestock Forestry Research (INIFAP) and the Center for Biological Research of the Northeast, from La Paz, Baja California Sur.

This is entitled “Use of natural extracts from native plants of the Coahuila semi-desert as a natural alternative to the use of synthetic herbicides”, and has already been approved by the National Council for Science and Technology (CONACyT).

Dr. Miguel Medina , professor and researcher at the Faculty of Chemical Sciences of the Autonomous University of Coahuila and coordinator of the project, comments in an interview with Amonite that the project seeks to take advantage of available waste in the region, in addition to contributing to the development of several rural communities. .

“We carry out processes to be able to produce compounds with high added value from materials that can be considered waste or biomass that can be exploited responsibly so as not to affect the ecosystem.”

Take advantage of the lettuce
The project is about being able to control or eradicate the pollution that is generated from lechuguilla waste. It is about taking advantage of this waste and not burning it, because otherwise it would mean more pollution for both the soil and the atmosphere.

“The intention is to try to take advantage of the material to obtain compounds with high added value derived from saponins or flavonoids . That they are compounds that can have a lot of activity”, says Dr. Medina.

RESEARCH IN COMMUNITIES THAT WORK WITH LECHUGUILLA. / PHOTOS: COURTESY

Saponins are molecules present in many plants (including several legumes) named for their soap-like properties. So people from the communities have come to use them as alternatives for personal hygiene, either as shampoo or soap.

On the other hand, flavonoids are natural pigments that are present in vegetables and that give the body protection from all damage caused by oxidizing elements or substances such as environmental pollution, ultraviolet rays and highly harmful substances found in food.

An alternative to glyphosate
The researchers are working on obtaining the extracts of the agave de lechuguilla and the Hojasen, which would be mixed with water or alcohol in order to obtain a compound that can work as a natural herbicide.

The main objective is to try to have alternatives to synthetic herbicides, such as glyphosate, which is used in crops worldwide.

As Dr. Miguel explains, “this can be present in water and also in the same plant materials that can later be consumed by livestock. And those compounds also accumulate in the meat. And when consumed, it can cause cancer and other ailments since they are toxic substances.”

Instead, this product developed by the UAdeC researchers would be friendly to the environment and easily accessible to communities that are primarily agricultural and where all their economic resources come from this activity.

“We are proposing, if they are interested, to formulate products that they can make themselves, we are trying to make it a simple technology,” adds Medina.

Approaching the communities has been an important aspect in the research in which they also seek that the inhabitants themselves can carry out this process without the need for sophisticated techniques.

To conclude, Dr. Miguel Medina points out that they are working on creating projects that not only stay in the centers but are applicable in nearby rural communities and improve people’s quality of life.

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