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Copper-based fungicides and soil health

publication date: Oct 1, 2015
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Disease pressure from late blight was high during the summers of 2012 and 2013, and I made a fair number of farm visits looking for the pathogen. Once the disease was found in New Jersey and the weather conditions were conducive to its spread the alert went out to growers that they should use preventative sprays.  Organic growers rely on copper-based fungicides as a protectant for many diseases, and in the case of late blight this is the only current organic option shown to have worthwhile efficacy.  During the summer I repeatedly witnessed a philosophical struggle with the idea of using copper.  Which was the lesser of two evils – copper or late blight?  Tomatoes are an expected crop at a diversified vegetable farm and a staple for producers here in NJ.  “But what is it doing to the biology of the soil” was the theme from growers. A literature search showed some research, but not a lot of data on soils from active farms with a history of using copper. 

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