Organic Small Fruit Disease Management Guidelines

Fungicides for Use in Organic Production Systems


The following is a brief description of some disease control materials that are commonly or traditionally used in organic production systems. Copper fungicides, elemental sulfur and liquid lime sulfur are the old “standard” fungicides, and have been used for many years in organic production systems.

Note: Prior to using any material in the organic system, it is important that the grower consult his/her organic certification agency or program to be positive that use of the material is permitted.

Copper Fungicides

When different formulations of copper are dissolved in water, copper ions are released into solution. These copper ions are toxic to fungi and bacteria because of their ability to destroy proteins in plant tissues. However, because copper can kill all types of plant tissues, the use of copper fungicides carries the risk of injuring foliage and fruit of most crops. Factors promoting this injury include: 1) the amount of actual copper applied, and 2) cold, wet weather (slow drying conditions) that apparently increases the availability of copper ions and, thus, increases the risk of plant injury. Because of the potential to injure plants and to accumulate in soil, the use of copper fungicides in conventional production systems has largely been replaced with conventional fungicides that are generally safer to plant tissues and often more effective.

Several terms are used when discussing copper as a fungicide. The original material used was copper sulfate (also known as blue vitriol or bluestone). When this material was combined with lime in the French vineyards, the combination became known as Bordeaux mixture.

Bordeaux Mixture

Bordeaux mixture is a mixture of copper sulfate and hydrated lime in water. It has long residual action and has been used for years to control many diseases, including downy mildew and powdery mildew of grape. It can be made (mixed) on site by combining copper sulfate with spray grade lime. It is also commercially available as a dry wettable powder.

Fixed Copper Fungicides

Following the discovery and use of Bordeaux mixture, several relatively insoluble copper compounds or fixed coppers were developed. Fixed copper formulations release less copper ions and are generally less injurious to plant tissues (safer to use) than Bordeaux mixture, but their use is still limited because of their potential to injure plants and lack of compatibility with other pesticides. Some of the more common commercial formulations of fixed copper include C-O-C-S, Kocide 101, Tribasic Copper sulfate, Champ, and Tenn-Copp 5E. There are several fixed copper fungicides registered for use on small fruit.

Sulfur Fungicides

Sulfur is available as liquid lime sulfur and as dry wettable powders or liquid (flowable) formulations of elemental sulfur.

Liquid Lime Sulfur

Liquid lime sulfur can be used at high concentrations as a dormant spray on raspberries and blackberries for control of cane blight, spur blight and anthracnose and on grapes for control of anthracnose. At high concentrations, it should be used only when plants are dormant. It can cause severe damage if applied after green foliage appears. Lime sulfur has a foul odor that many people dislike. It is also registered for use on grapes and caneberries as a more dilute concentration for use during the growing season.

Dry Wettable Sulfurs or Flowable Sulfurs

Sulfur for use as a fungicide is available under many trade names. The microfine wettable sulfurs or flowable sulfurs are usually much less injurious to foliage and fruit than liquid lime sulfur, but their use during hot weather (above 85°F) may result in some leaf burning and fruit damage. Sulfur fungicides are very effective for control of powdery mildew on most fruit crops, but are not highly effective for control of most other fruit crop diseases. Sulfur is very toxic to foliage of certain grape varieties (mainly American grapes) including Concord, Chancellor, DeChaunac and Foch. Sulfur is relatively safe on most other varieties see Table 6, page 68. Applications after the fruit begins to ripen may pose problems during fermentation if the grapes are intended for wine making.

Growers should note that sulfur is lethal to some beneficial insects, spiders and mites. These beneficial insects are natural predators of harmful insects and mites that affect fruit crops. Killing these beneficial insects may increase certain pest problems, especially mites.

Specific comments on fungicide use will be made in the text for each crop where applicable.

“New Alternative” Disease Control Materials for Small Fruit

Many products are currently available or currently being introduced as “biological control agents” or “biopesticides”. These include living microorganisms, “natural chemicals such as plant extracts, and “plant activators” that induce resistance in plants to disease. For most of these products, independent evaluations are currently being conducted; however, their effectiveness under moderate to high disease pressure is uncertain. Although many of these new products have great potential for use within organic production systems, their effectiveness needs to be determined in field tests. It is important to remember that registration of these materials for control of a specific disease on a crop is no guarantee that they will provide effective control under moderate to heavy disease pressure. In addition, many products may be effective for only one or a few diseases and most have very limited residual activity (they have to be applied often). It is also important to remember that these are registered pesticides and growers need to be certain that their use is permitted within their organic certification program.

The IR-4 project is a federally funded program that facilitates the registration of sustainable pest management technology for specialty crops and minor uses. IR-4 has a very helpful searchable database for all registered biopesticide products. I think the following web sites probably have the best information on biopesticides that are avilable nationally and in your state.

For background go to:

For the searchable database on biopesticies go to:

Also, the Biopesticide Industry Alliance recently updated their web site. On it there is some general information about biopesticides that should be useful to organic growers.

These web pages list all the products currently available along with information such as registered crops and diseases controlled. It also lists the name of the company that manufacturers or distributes the product along with phone numbers and web site addressess. These sites are updated regularly and should be a valuable resource for growers interested in these products.

The following are a few of the most common "alternative" disease control products currently registered for use on small fruit.

  • AC10 (Ampelomyces quisqualis) is a biofungicide registered for control of powdery mildew in grapes, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, currants, and gooseberries. A. quisqualis is a fungus, that parasitizes powdery mildew fungi. Preliminary results in grapes in Michigan show moderate disease control. Adding an adjuvant such as Nufilm (0.02% v/v) enhances its efficacy. Application should start as soon as susceptible tissue becomes available and continue on a 7 to 14 day schedule. A minimum of 2 sequential applications if needed to maintain the population of A. quisqualis. The following chemicals cannot be tank-mixed with AQ10: sulfur and potassium salts of fatty acids.

  • Armicarb 100 (potassium bicarbonate=baking powder) is a reduced-risk, protectant (contact) fungicide. Armicarb 100 is registered for control of powdery mildew and other diseases in grapes, blueberries, strawberries, and brambles. Preliminary results in grapes in Michigan indicate moderate control of powdery mildew. Start applications at the first sign of disease and continue on a 7-14 day schedule. The preharvest interval (PHI) on all crops is 0 days.

  • Galltrol (Agrobacterium radiobactor strain 84) is a biological control product for control of crown gall, caused by Agrobacterium tumifaciens on several tree fruit and nut crops. The active ingredient is the bacterium, Agrobacterium radiobactor strain 84. On small fruits it is effective for control of crown gall on raspberry and blueberry. It is not effective for controlling crown gall on grapes. It is purchased as a pure culture grown on agar in petri plates. The bacterial mass from one plate is diluted into one gallon on non-chlorinated water and plants are treated with a pre-plant dip in the solution or as a soil drench.

  • Kaligreen (potassium bicarbonate = baking powder) is a reduced-risk protectant (contact) fungicide. Kaligreen is registered for control of powdery mildew on grapes, strawberry, brambles (raspberry and blackberry) and blueberry. It provides good control of powdery mildew when applied on a frequent-protectant program of 7 to 10-day intervals. It has little or no efficacy against most other fungal diseases on small fruit. It is formulated as a micro-encapsulated powder that is mixed in water and sprayed directly on the crop. Kaligreen has a preharvest interval (PHI) of 1 day on all small fruit crops.

  • Messenger (harpin) is a reduced risk product registered for use on grapes, blueberries, cranberries, strawberries, brambles, and currants. The active ingredient is derived from a protein produced by certain bacteria. This protein stimulates natural plant defenses. Messenger has no direct effect on pathogens. The efficacy of this material for disease control or suppression has not been sufficiently confirmed. Messenger has a 0 day PHI.

  • Mycostop (Streptomyces griseoviridis strain K61) is a biocontrol product registered for use on all fruit crops for control of several important pathogenic fungi that cause seed, root, and stem rot and wilt diseases. The active ingredient is the bacterium, Streptomyces griseoviridis strain K61. It is sold as a powder formulation that is mixed with water and applied as a spray or a drench.

  • Oxidate (hydrogen dioxide) is a broad-spectrum bactericide/fungicide registered for use in grapes, blueberries, cranberries, strawberries, and brambles. It is a rather corrosive material and works by oxidizing fungal and bacterial cells. The efficacy of the material for disease control has not been sufficiently confirmed on several diseases. In one Ohio fungicide evaluation, it provided no control of grape black rot.

  • Serenade (Bacillus subtilis) is a biocontrol product registered for control of powdery mildew, Botrytis bunch rot and sour rot in grapes. Serenade is also reported to provide some suppression of downy mildew. This product needs further evaluation, but preliminary results show a moderate level of control of Botrytis bunch rot and powdery mildew. Serenade did not control grape black rot in Ohio. Good coverage is important for control. Applications are recommended on a 7-10 day schedule. Serenade has no maximum seasonal application rate and has a 0 day PHI.

  • Trichodex (Trichoderma harzianum) is a biofungicide registered for use on all small fruit crops for control of a wide range of diseases, but primarily for control of Botrytis fruit rot. It is sold as a wettable powder formulation that is mixed with water and sprayed directly onto the plants.

  • Trilogy (Clarified Hydrophobic Extract of Neem Oil). The label states that Trilogy is a broad spectrum fungicide of certain diseases and controls mites in citrus, deciduous fruits and nuts, vegetable crop, cereal grains and other miscellaneous crops. The label does not state what diseases are controlled on specific crops. Trilogy is registered for use on grapes, strawberry, brambles (raspberry and blackberry), and blueberry. Trilogy is a liquid that is applied for diseases as a 1% solution in sufficient water to achieve complete coverage of the foliage.

As the efficacy of these new materials is tested and validated, they will be included in these guidelines where appropriate.

Efficacy of Disease Control Materials

for Powdery Mildew

Powdery mildew is different from most other plant diseases caused by fungi, because the fungus that causes it lives almost entirely on the surface of infected plant parts. The fungus may penetrate only one cell layer deep into the plant. Thus, it is exposed to eradication following topical treatment with a range of products that do not affect many other pathogenic fungi that colonize deeper into infected plant tissues. Research in New York and other locations has demonstrated that many new and “alternative materials can provide effective control of powdery mildew if applied often enough (7 day schedule) through the growing season. These

materials burn out the fungus growing on the surface, but do not provide protection against new infections; thus, repeated applications are important. These materials include: Nutrol (manopotassium phosphate); Kaligreen and Armicarb (potassium bicarbonate-baking soda); oils such as Stylet Oil and Trilogy; and dilute solutions of hydrogen peroxide (Oxidate).

Unfortunately, these materials have little or no effect on many other small fruit diseases. In addition, organic growers need to consult with their certification agency or program to be sure that any material they use is “certified” or acceptable as organic.