Aspirin for grass
Original Published Date: 
Thursday, July 22, 2021

Full article issued by Curtin University.

An ARC-supported study has revealed that aspirin, which naturally occurs in the bark of the willow tree and other plants, can improve the survival of grass species important for ecological restoration and sustainable pasture when applied in a seed coating.

Lead researcher, Dr Simone Pedrini from the ARC Training Centre for Mine Site Restoration in Curtin’s School of Molecular and Life Sciences, said salicylic acid has been used for its medicinal properties for more than 4000 years and its modern synthetic version, acetylsalicylic acid, or aspirin, is one of the most widely used medications in the world.

'Our research found that aspirin can do more than just ease a headache; it can also help restore degraded land and ecosystems and establish sustainable pastures through improving plant growth and survival,' Dr Pedrini says.

'This study was performed on native perennial grasses and showed that applying very low concentrations of salicylic acid to the seed can improve plant survival and therefore its effectiveness in reaching restoration goals.'

Research team member and Director of the ARC Training Centre, John Curtin Distinguished Professor Kingsley Dixon, said salicylic acid was applied to the seeds of the native grass species using a technology called seed coating, perfected by Curtin University researchers, that allows seed shape and size to be modified, improving seeding efficiency, and can be used to carry growth benefiting compounds.

'This is the first study to deliver aspirin via coating on native species which means the technology can be scaled up for improving restoration targets such as the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration to be launched on 5 June 2021,' Professor Dixon said.

Read more about the work of the ARC Training Centre for Mine Site Restoration in our feature article: Planting the Smart Seed.

Photo credit: 

Aspirin can improve the survival of grass species. Credit: Curtin University.