Sodium chlorate is used as a non-selective herbicide applied as a foliar spray or soil treatment on irrigable land to control a wide range of plants, such as morning glory, bamboo, ragwort, St John’s wort and Canadian thistle.  It is also used to treat non-cropped land such as road sides, fence ways and open land for complete weed control. Sodium chlorate-based products work by generating oxygen in the tissues, which then acts as a free radical destroying proteins and enzymes in the plant, acting as a total phytotoxic compound. It was particularly popular for spraying gravelled areas and so on as it remains in the soil for up to 6 months after spraying.

Sodium Chlorate, the active ingredient in products such as Atlacide, Defol, De-Fol-Ate, Drop-Leaf, Fall, Harvest-Aid, Kusatol, Leafex, and Tumbleaf

However, the same oxygen producing activity of sodium chlorate that causes its high level of phytotoxicity also causes it to be highly toxic if consumed by humans or animals.  The oxidative effect of the chemical on haemoglobin causes the formation of methaemglobin, leading to denaturizationg of erythrocyte membranes and other membranes in the organs – in other words it destroys the red blood cells. Ultimately death can occur due to the failure of a number of organs, especially the kidneys.  In 2009 the European Union decided that it is not able to ensure the safe use of products containing sodium chlorate, and due to the highly toxic nature of the compound it is not longer authorised for use in Europe.

The ban on sodium chlorate leaves many people wondering what to use in its place. This will depend on how you would have used the initial product.  If you are looking for a non-selective weedkiller in fields to be cultivated or in your garden glyphosate based products, such as WEEDAWAY (ready to use/amateur use) are the most effective to use.  If you were looking to clear an areas of woodland or brush, such as a road side or a abandoned area a product containing triclopyr, such as professional products like PURE WOODY or amateur/ready to use gardening products like Vitax SBK brushwood killer will work. For keeping gravel driveways or paths clear of weeds for up to 6 months products containing flazasulfuron (Chikita) , such as professional products lead to the best long term effects.