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Chemical dust or spray applied to plants to cause their leaves to drop off prematurely. Defoliants sometimes are applied to crop plants such as cotton to facilitate harvesting. They have also been used in warfare to eliminate enemy food crops and potential areas of concealment (as in the Vietnam War). See alsoAgent Orange.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on defoliant, visit Britannica.com.