Fungicides vs. Pesticides

When tending crops and gardens, you’ve likely heard about using fungicides and pesticides, but what exactly sets these agricultural chemicals apart? Both play a role in protecting plants, but have distinct purposes. Understanding the key differences between fungicides and pesticides provides helpful clarity on when to use each product.

Defining Fungicides

Fungicides are chemicals formulated specifically to prevent, destroy, repel or mitigate fungi that can infect and damage plants. Fungi of concern include rusts, mold, mildew, and blights. Fungicides work by impeding the critical fungal processes of spore germination, sporulation or haustorium development and spread.

There are several types of common fungicides:

  • Contact fungicides that act quickly to kill fungal spores on plant surfaces. Examples are chlorothalonil, sulfur, copper.
  • Systemic fungicides that get absorbed into plant tissues and disrupt fungal growth cycles. Examples are tebuconazole, propiconazole, azoxystrobin.
  • Biological fungicides like Bacillus subtilis that outcompete harmful fungi.
  • Fumigants that produce gas to clear fungi from spaces like soil or storage facilities.

Key Uses of Fungicides:

  • Prevent development of fungal diseases like gray mold, powdery mildew, blights
  • Stop the spread of fungal infections already present
  • Protect crops from post-harvest fungal damage during storage and transport

Defining Pesticides

Pesticides are chemical formulations designed to manage, destroy or mitigate insect pests, plant pathogens like bacteria and viruses, and other agricultural nuisances such as nematodes, mites and weeds.

Types of common pesticides include:

  • Insecticides to control insects like aphids, beetles, flies and caterpillars
  • Herbicides to manage invasive weeds and vegetation
  • Bactericides to combat bacterial infections
  • Rodenticides to reduce rodent and mammal pests
  • Antimicrobials to kill microorganisms like bacteria and viruses

Key Uses of Pesticides:

  • Prevent crop damage and yield losses from invasive pests
  • Curb transmittable diseases spread by insects or nematodes
  • Inhibit weed growth that competes with crops for nutrients
  • Protect stored agricultural products from pest infestations

While both provide plant protection, fungicides solely target fungal pathogens whereas pesticides have a broader target range of insects, weeds, bacteria, rodents, etc. The key is to properly identify whether fungal infection or wider pest issues are the primary threat.

Using Fungicides and Pesticides Together

Fungicides and pesticides may be used together as part of an Integrated Pest Management plan for crops. However, some key considerations include:

  • Ensure proper timing of application as fungicides and pesticides may have different protective windows.
  • Check that the products are compatible and won’t negatively interact or become less effective.
  • Rotate between pesticide classes to avoid pest resistance.
  • Follow all safety precautions as both carry health risks if improperly handled.

By understanding the distinct purposes of fungicides and pesticides, agricultural producers can employ them strategically to protect the quality and bounty of their crops and gardens. Both play a role in mitigating the array of threats plants face from fungi to pests.

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