Using Fungicides in Gardens and Greenhouses

Plant diseases can quickly ravage your plant populations, and can be frustrating to combat. Fungal diseases come in a wide variety of manifestations, from curled leaves to unsightly spots or galls, and can be difficult to control if you don’t know what you’re dealing with. However, there are a lot of great fungicide products on the market that can prevent and cure your plant’s diseases and keep your plants healthy and beautiful.

Fungicides: What they are and how they work

Fungicides are a type of pesticide that target the organisms that make up the fungal disease, inhibiting or killing the crucial functions of the fungal cells. Fungicides do not work on other plant diseases or disease causing organisms, like bacteria and nematodes.

  • Contact fungicides and systemic fungicides: Contact fungicides work by creating a protective barrier on the plant. This type of fungicide is not absorbed by the plant but sits on the outside of the plant surfaces, preventing the fungi from penetrating and damaging plant tissues. Systemic fungicides are absorbed directly into the plant, moving throughout the plant and working from the inside out.
  • Preventative fungicides and curative fungicides: Preventative fungicides do just as their name suggests; they prevent a fungal disease before it can affect the plant tissue. You apply these products before your plants show signs of disease, but must be reapplied after rain and a certain period of time. Curative products work to repair the fungal disease; it can stop the present fungi from further damaging the plant.

Tips For Choosing And Using A Fungicide

  • The most important part about treating any plant disease is diagnosing the problem correctly, since the disease won’t go away if you don’t apply the right product. There are such a wide variety of diseases that could affect your plants, so it can be tricky to diagnose.
  • Most products available target either a specific plant, like fungicides for tomatoes, or a specific disease, like black spot or blight. Most types of fungal diseases will affect a variety of plants (but may not affect others), but here is a short list of generic fungal diseases: black spot, brown spot, canker, scab, rust, blight, mildew, mold, rot, smut, blister, and gall.
  • Timing of application is a crucial step in using fungicides. Follow the directions on packaging carefully to ensure your application will be successful. Misapplication can actually damage your plants, so take caution.
  • Keep in mind that relying solely on a fungicide may not completely solve your plant disease problem. Cultural control practices, or working to create a very healthy environment for your plants, can help to prevent and combat plant diseases. For example, proper planting techniques (spacing, timing, etc.), proper soil moisture and drainage, proper fertilization (content and timing) can all make a huge difference in the health of your plants. Healthy plants are able to resist damage from diseases and pests much easier than suffering plants.
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