Ammonium Nonanoate vs. Glyphosate [Weed Killer Comparison]

Glyphosate is a more effective weed killer than Ammonium Nonanoate because it attacks plants systemically and kills them down to the root. In contrast, Ammonium Nonanoate is a dessicant that destroys plant cells it comes in contact with. This means it kills aboveground growth but does not effectively kill established weed and grass roots.

Although it is less effective at killing weeds, Ammonium Nonanoate is a natural, environmentally safe alternative to Glyphosate that is less expensive and more effective than other natural products. If you want to avoid Glyphosate, Ammonium Nonanoate is a high-quality alternative.

Ammonium Nonanoate vs Glyphosate

Ammonium Nonanoate Facts

Compared to Glyphosate, which is commonly associated with its brand name, Roundup, Ammonium Nonanoate is little known. Here’s a breakdown of what you should know about this natural herbicide.

What is Ammonium Nonanoate?

Ammonium Nonanoate is an ammonium salt or “soap salt” derived from nonanoic acid (sometimes referred to as pelargonic acid). This fatty acid occurs naturally in almost all living organisms and is present in many common foods.

  • Ammonium Nonanoate is derived from a nonanoic acid, which is naturally occurring in almost all plants and animals.
  • Classified as a soap salt, think of Ammonium Nonanoate as an extremely strong herbicidal soap—it breaks down lipids (fats/waxes) to destroy cell walls and kill plants.
  • Ammonium Nonanoate is commonly made from plant oils.
  • This Ammonium Nonanoate alternative to a Glyphosate spray is available for home use.

Because it is a naturally derived substance, Ammonium Nonanoate has the benefit of being a sustainable alternative to chemical herbicides, such as Roundup.

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How Does Ammonium Nonanoate Work?

The soap salt structure of Ammonium Nonanoate works by dissolving plant cell walls in leaves in stems. This causes plants to lose water, drying them out and killing aboveground growth.

  • Ammonium Nonanoate works like a super-strong soap—it dissolves waxy cell walls to kill leaves and stems.
  • Unlike Glyphosate, Ammonium Nonanoate is not a systemic herbicide. It does not infiltrate plant systems and kill down to the root.
  • Only portions of the plant sprayed with Ammonium Nonanoate are affected.
  • Ammonium Nonanoate is safe for use around desirable plants. All long as the plant isn’t sprayed with the compound, it won’t be harmed.

While it is among the most effective desiccants available, Ammonium Nonanoate is neutralized by soil and only kills what it touches. This means the roots of a plant sprayed with Ammonium Nonanoate will be unaffected.

Glyphosate Facts

Glyphosate is a common herbicide that has been in use since 1974. It was developed as a low-impact herbicide for killing all species of unwanted plants and has been commonly marketed under the Roundup brand name. Here’s what you need to know:

What is Glyphosate?

Glyphosate is derived from the amino acid glycine. It is a synthetic formulation that disrupts plant protein synthesis.

  • Glyphosate is a derivative of Glycine, designed to disrupt plant protein and enzyme processes.
  • In most products, Glyphosate is combined with surfactants that cause it to stick to plants for increased penetration and effectiveness.

While Glyphosate is most commonly associated with the Roundup line of products, there are many products today that include Glyphosate. Check the product label when purchasing herbicide, as non-Roundup products may contain Glyphosate.

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How Does Glyphosate Work?

Glyphosate works by entering a plant, typically through the leaves, and disrupting the plant’s ability to construct proteins. This, in turn, halts cell division and causes the plant to die.

  • Once absorbed by a plant, Glyphosate halts protein and enzyme creation needed for cell division and life.
  • Because Glyphosate inhibits protein creation, it attacks all parts of the plant, including the roots.
  • Glyphosate will kill all parts of the plant once it is absorbed, including roots that were not exposed to the herbicide.
  • Glyphosate is quickly neutralized by soil—it only impacts plants it is sprayed on.

What makes Glyphosate so useful is its versatility and ability to fully kill weeds. Even a hardy perennial with well-established roots will be killed if sprayed with a Glyphosate product, such as Roundup.

Ammonium Nonanoate vs. Glyphosate: Which is Better?

Weeds overgrowing in a lawn

In the battle of Glyphosate vs. Ammonium Nonanoate, each is used for different reasons. The choice you make depends on whether you value weed killing effectiveness or environmental safety more.

  • Glyphosate is more effective at killing weeds, grasses, and other plants.
  • Ammonium Nonanoate has a lower environmental impact and is deemed safer for use by the EPA and international organizations.

In order to better make your choice, let’s dive into specifics on performance and ecological impact.

Effectiveness: Glyphosate vs. Ammonium Nonanoate

In the battle of pure effectiveness, Glyphosate comes out on top. But it’s a close competition. Ammonium Nonanoate kills immature weeds, as well as annual grassy and broadleaf weeds, with effectiveness on par with Glyphosate. However, Glyphosate is better at killing established plants and perennial weeds with developed root systems.

  • Young Weeds (less than 30 days old): Glyphosate and Ammonium Nonanoate have nearly the same effectiveness.
  • Larger weeds (more than 30 days old): Glyphosate has a higher kill rate.
  • Annual weeds and grasses: Ammonium Nonanoate performs almost as well as Glyphosate at killing annuals, including broadleaf weeds like carpetweed and chickweed.
  • Perennial weeds and grasses: Because perennials have more developed roots, they are prone to regrowth after treatment with Ammonium Nonanoate. Glyphosate kills perennial sedges, grasses, and broadleaf weeds to the root.
  • Repeat applications of Ammonium Nonanoate may be required to kill established weeds and perennials.

Ammonium Nonanoate performs extremely well at killing several weeds. In USDA tests, spray applications of Ammonium Nonanoate controlled carpetweed at an 88% success rate and crabgrass at a 54% success rate. This rivals Glyphosate for effectiveness in many cases.

Safety: Glyphosate vs. Ammonium Nonanoate

While the EPA still deems Glyphosate safe for use, it is currently being outlawed and phased out of use in several European countries due to concerns of environmental impact. Ammonium Nonanoate is considered exceptionally safe for use.

  • Glyphosate is still deemed safe for use by the EPA, but is being phased out in several countries due to environmental concerns.
  • Ammonium Nonanoate is considered a safe alternative to herbicides such as Glyphosate and is legal for use worldwide.
  • The EPA classes Ammonium Nonanoate as “no risk for human health” and recognizes extremely minimal environmental risk.
  • Both Glyphosate and Ammonium Nonanoate will not harm desirable plants as long as the plant is not directly sprayed with the compound.

Ammonium Nonanoate is safe because it has such a short half-life. It is neutralized by soil contact in less than a day, drastically reducing the risk that it enters the water supply. For greatest safety, it is advised that Ammonium Nonanoate be applied while wearing gloves and goggles. If possible, Ammonium Nonanoate should be applied at night, as fresh applications of Ammonium Nonanoate can potentially harm insects that come into contact with plants sprayed with the compound.

Is Ammonium Nonanoate the Best Alternative to Glyphosate?

Because it is such an effective desiccant and has little residual activity in the environment, Ammonium Nonanoate is perhaps the best alternative to Glyphosate. It is far more effective than acetic acid (vinegar), and is a far safer weed control than chemical herbicides.

However, Ammonium Nonanoate is not as successful at killing weeds and grasses as Glyphosate. Where Glyphosate can kill even established perennials with a single treatment, Ammonium Nonanoate may require 2–3 applications. If you want weeds gone immediately, choose Glyphosate. If you want to reduce environmental risk and avoid using a chemical treatment, use an Ammonium Nonanoate product.

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