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The unique role of halogen substituents in the design of modern agrochemicals


  • Extended version of a presentation given at the 2nd EuCheMS Chemistry Congress, Turin, Italy, 18 September 2008.


The past 30 years have witnessed a period of significant expansion in the use of halogenated compounds in the field of agrochemical research and development. The introduction of halogens into active ingredients has become an important concept in the quest for a modern agrochemical with optimal efficacy, environmental safety, user friendliness and economic viability. Outstanding progress has been made, especially in synthetic methods for particular halogen-substituted key intermediates that were previously prohibitively expensive. Interestingly, there has been a rise in the number of commercial products containing ‘mixed’ halogens, e.g. one or more fluorine, chlorine, bromine or iodine atoms in addition to one or more further halogen atoms. Extrapolation of the current trend indicates that a definite growth is to be expected in fluorine-substituted agrochemicals throughout the twenty-first century. A number of these recently developed agrochemical candidates containing halogen substituents represent novel classes of chemical compounds with new modes of action. However, the complex structure–activity relationships associated with biologically active molecules mean that the introduction of halogens can lead to either an increase or a decrease in the efficacy of a compound, depending on its changed mode of action, physicochemical properties, target interaction or metabolic susceptibility and transformation. In spite of modern design concepts, it is still difficult to predict the sites in a molecule at which halogen substitution will result in optimal desired effects. This review describes comprehensively the successful utilisation of halogens and their unique role in the design of modern agrochemicals, exemplified by various commercial products from Bayer CropScience coming from different agrochemical areas. Copyright © 2009 Society of Chemical Industry