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A defoliant is any chemical sprayed or dusted on plants to cause its leaves to fall off. A classic example of a highly toxic defoliant is Agent Orange, which the British military used abundantly to defoliate regions of Malaya during the Malayan Emergency, and the U.S. military to defoliate regions of Vietnam during the Vietnam War from 1961 to 1970.
Defoliants differ from herbicides in that the former seeks mainly to strip leaves from plants, and the latter is used to destroy or inhibit the growth of plants.
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