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For herbicides based on it, see Glyphosate-based herbicides. Not to be confused with Glufosinate. Farmers quickly adopted glyphosate for agricultural weed control, especially after Monsanto introduced glyphosate-resistant Roundup Ready crops, enabling farmers to kill weeds without killing their crops. Glyphosate is absorbed through foliage, and minimally through roots, and transported to growing points. It inhibits a plant enzyme involved in the synthesis of three aromatic amino acids: tyrosine, tryptophan, and phenylalanine. While glyphosate and formulations such as Roundup have been approved by regulatory bodies worldwide, concerns about their effects on humans and the environment persist, and have grown as the global research review article of glyphosate increases.
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Glyphosate was first synthesized in 1950 by Swiss chemist Henry Martin, who worked for the Swiss company Cilag. Somewhat later, glyphosate was independently discovered in the United States at Monsanto in 1970. Monsanto developed and patented the use of glyphosate to kill weeds in the early 1970s and first brought it to market in 1974, under the Roundup brandname. Powles—an Australian weed expert—described glyphosate as a «virtually ideal» herbicide. Glyphosate is an aminophosphonic analogue of the natural amino acid glycine, and like all amino acids, exists in different ionic states depending on pH.
Two main approaches are used to synthesize glyphosate industrially. The chloroacetic acid approach is less efficient than other iminodiacetic acid approaches, owing to the production of calcium chloride waste and decreased yield. The second involves the use of dimethyl phosphite in a one-pot synthesis. This synthetic approach is responsible for a substantial portion of the production of glyphosate in China, with considerable work having gone into recycling the triethylamine and methanol. Progress has also been made in attempting to eliminate the need for triethylamine altogether. Under normal circumstances, EPSP is dephosphorylated to chorismate, an essential precursor for the amino acids mentioned above. Glyphosate is effective in killing a wide variety of plants, including grasses and broadleaf and woody plants.
By volume, it is one of the most widely used herbicides. Glyphosate and related herbicides are often used in invasive species eradication and habitat restoration, especially to enhance native plant establishment in prairie ecosystems. In many cities, glyphosate is sprayed along the sidewalks and streets, as well as crevices in between pavement where weeds often grow. Glyphosate contamination of surface water is attributed to urban and agricultural use.
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