Why have no new herbicide modes of action appeared in recent years?

Pest Manag Sci. 2012 Apr;68(4):505-12. doi: 10.1002/ps.2333. Epub 2011 Dec 22.


Herbicides with new modes of action are badly needed to manage the evolution of resistance of weeds to existing herbicides. Yet no major new mode of action has been introduced to the market place for about 20 years. There are probably several reasons for this. New potential products may have remained dormant owing to concerns that glyphosate-resistant (GR) crops have reduced the market for a new herbicide. The capture of a large fraction of the herbicide market by glyphosate with GR crops led to significantly diminished herbicide discovery efforts. Some of the reduced herbicide discovery research was also due to company consolidations and the availability of more generic herbicides. Another problem might be that the best herbicide molecular target sites may have already been discovered. However, target sites that are not utilized, for which there are inhibitors that are highly effective at killing plants, suggests that this is not true. Results of modern methods of target site discovery (e.g. gene knockout methods) are mostly not public, but there is no evidence of good herbicides with new target sites coming from these approaches. In summary, there are several reasons for a long dry period for new herbicide target sites; however, the relative magnitude of each is unclear. The economic stimulus to the herbicide industry caused by the evolution of herbicide-resistant weeds, especially GR weeds, may result in one or more new modes of action becoming available in the not too distant future.

MeSH terms

  • Drug Discovery
  • Herbicide Resistance
  • Herbicides / chemistry*
  • Herbicides / pharmacology*
  • Plant Weeds / drug effects
  • Plant Weeds / physiology
  • Quantitative Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Herbicides