Sunday, April 6, 2014

Untangling the Web of Copper Fungicides

Fire blight season is approaching, and delayed dormant applications of copper fungicides are commonly recommended for management of various tree fruit diseases.  But there are so many...

Below is a summary of copper formulations, their characteristics, and their limitations. 

Copper Fungicides

·       Fixed Copper

o   Safer for plant tissue than “bluestone” copper (see below)

o   May be used throughout growing season, but may cause fruit russetting

o   Low solubility in water, lower risk for phytotoxicity

o   Release copper ions slowly (with water/rain), longer residual

o   Slow drying time (rainy conditions) increases solubility, ion release, and phytotoxicity

o   Acidic conditions/additives increase solubility, ion release, and phytotoxicity

§  Adjuvants, phosphorus acid fungicides, and mancozeb lower pH

o   Use high rates during dormancy for fire blight management (until ½” green)

o   Lower rates during growing season for management of other diseases, may add lime

o   Common forms of fixed copper fungicides

§  Basic copper sulfate – Cuprofix, Basicop, Phyton, Agristar

§  Copper Hydroxide – Kocide, Champ, Badge, NuCop, CuPro

§  Copper oxychloride sulfate – C-O-C-S

§  Cuprous oxide – Nordox, ChemCopp

·       Copper sulfate pentahydrate – bluestone

o   Dormant spray, only

o   CuSO4.5H2O

o   Highly soluble ions, phytotoxic

o   Often combined with lime to help tie up copper ions

o   No residual activity, rapid release of copper ions

o   Common brands of copper sulfate

§  Mastercop, Magna Bon, Aquavet, Delcup

Tree fruit diseases managed with copper fungicides:
  •                 Fire blight (spray guide recommendations: dormant – label: silver tip to green tip)
  •                  Apple scab (dormant to pink)
  •               Bacterial canker (after harvest and late dormant)
  •                Bacterial spot (dormant/budswell, pink, and petal fall)
  •                Peach leaf curl (dormant)
  •                Cherry leaf spot (after petal fall)
  •                Black knot (dormant)
Copper is an antimicrobial; it is not selective.  Kills any exposed plant cells, bacteria, and fungi

Large numbers of copper ions (rapid release of ions) are phytotoxic to plant tissue, especially leaf tissue

Copper fungicides are not systemic and wash off with rain.  Fixed coppers have more residual activity due to slow release of copper ions.

Metallic copper equivalent is the amount of copper available for fungicidal activity (different from active ingredient).  Basic copper sulfate usually contains the highest metallic copper equivalent.

Copper can accumulate in soils, inhibit plant growth, and is toxic to microorganisms and earthworms


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