Greener Than You Think by Ward Moore
Available for free download:
Gutenberg text: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/24246/24246.zip
Albert Weener is a salesman looking for work. He responds to an ad, and finds an amateur scientist with an invention. The scientist has developed a chemical that causes plants in the grasses family to mutate in a way that makes them much better at acquiring nutrients and growing. The inventor has noble ambitions of increasing farm yields [grains are "grasses"]. She hires him to go out into the country and sell it to farmers. The salesman sees it's easier for him to make a quick buck selling it to improve lawns.
On the first day, Weener goes out and manages to sell a treatment for one homeowner's yard with a particularly poor lawn with a weed-y kind of grass (nicknamed "devil grass"). The next day that lawn is growing wild. Lawn mowers break down trying to cut it. The day after that, the grass is so tall and thick, the people have to be rescued from their house by the fire department reaching the big ladder on the fire truck over the grass.
The scientist realizes she overlooked an important issue - as a result of which the devil grass will keep growing and spreading with no clear way to stop it.
A series of attempts to destroy the grass by the fire department, the city and the military all give no more than a brief reduction in the grass. The government holds hearings on the question. The press continues to report on the expansion of the grass. Because of his connection with the grass, Weener is hired by a newspaper to write articles on the topic. (Shortly thereafter, the newspaper finds it necessary to have those articles ghost-written by someone else.)
Step by step, more attempts are made to either destroy the grass or to make barriers to contain it in a limited area. Over time, religious movements arise related to the grass, migrations of people escaping the grass take place, the economy is impacted, etc.
All the while, some shady business deals and circumstances lead to the rise of Albert Weener as a major businessman, whose self-serving ways further mold events.
The book is more of social commentary - on people rationalizing their self-serving choices, the press, politicians, business, the military, military-business relationship, etc.
I found it to be written in an entertaining / amusing style. Albert Weener is always finding ways to look at things from convenient perspectives or self-serving rationalizations - which can change as quickly as his perception of potential benefits does. He's always looking for an angle and skillfully ignoring any consequences (other than short-term ones for himself).
One could point to a number of aspects of scientific implausibility. As a book oriented to being amusing, I'm more flexible about that. If there is reason to be concerned about science issues in the book, it would be more the possible reactions of readers who may view it as a parable on the dangers of scientific experimentation. While the scientist whose invention causes the problems is not the stereotypical "mad scientist", she is certainly portrayed as eccentric in her grooming and habits, as well as expressing views which will not agree with all readers. Add to that the fact she made some poor choices, and some readers may interpret the book as being on the theme that there are things science should not meddle in and that science can be a dangerous thing at times. I did not get the impression that was the author's intention. Certainly, only the one scientist portrayed to any extent and, at very least, she comes across less negatively than Weener.
I found that the Librivox audiobook reader had a voice that was very well suited to the character narrating the story.