In forestry systems, many types of forest trees possess allelopathic properties and release a wide variety of allelochemicals that influence the growth and development of surrounding species. Dalbergia cochinchinensis, a forest tree distributed in Southeast Asia, is reputed to possess several biological properties and contain several secondary compounds. However, there have been no studies on the allelopathy of D. cochinchinensis. Therefore, D. cochinchinensis leaf extracts were examined for allelopathic potential. The present study showed that D. cochinchinensis extracts significantly inhibited the seedling growth of six test plant species: timothy, Italian ryegrass, barnyard grass, cress, alfalfa, and lettuce. Concentrations of the D. cochinchinensis extracts negatively correlated with the shoot length (r = −0.50 to −0.89) and root length (r = −0.65 to −0.89) of all the test plant species. The extracts were then purified using several chromatographic steps and the growth inhibitory substance was isolated. The chemical structure of the substance was identified through spectroscopic analysis as 3,4-dihydroxybenzoic acid (protocatechuic acid). Protocatechuic acid at a concentration higher than 3 mM significantly inhibited the growth of cress seedlings, whereas barnyard grass seedlings were inhibited at concentrations higher than 0.3 mM. As the protocatechuic acid concentration increased, the seedling growth of cress and barnyard grass was significantly reduced. I50 values showed the effectiveness of protocatechuic acid against both test plant species was apparently greater on root growth than shoot growth. Results of this study suggest that protocatechuic acid isolated from D. cochinchinensis might be responsible for its inhibitory effects.
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