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Ken Horst, Ph.D. is a highly regarded expert in the field of plant diseases. His research is published in many resources regarding diseases of ornamental plants, including the 4th, 5th, and 6th Editions of Westcott's Plant Disease Handbook, The Compendium of Rose Diseases and The Compendium of Chrysanthemum Diseases.
In 1987, Horst put together a research team from Cornell's Department of Plant Pathology. Over three growing seasons a number of different solutions were tested. Some results came easily. It was apparent that bicarbonates had a favorable influence on control of black spot and powdery mildew diseases. However, some results did not come easily. The bicarbonate solutions washed off easily during rains and the search was on to find the right combination of ingredients that would allow the bicarbonates to stay on the plants.
Dr. Ken Horst
Untreated rose leaves and leaves treated with GreenCure®
Bicarbonate-based formulations have proven highly effective against many fungal diseases, in many cases proving superior in activity to competitive products. Bicarbonates have even proven effective in controlling some fungi which currently have no known means of control. Moreover, bicarbonates appear to have a very important performance advantage over many of the current conventional products in the area of resistance build up.
One of the unintended effects of conventional chemical pesticides is often the development of pesticide resistance in the target pathogen species. More than 70 fungal species are now known to be resistant to some pesticides (NRC, 1986). It is expected that this situation has become worse. Pest populations already resistant to one or more pesticides, generally develop resistance to other chemicals more rapidly, especially when the compounds work in the same way in control or have the same mechanism of activity. To counteract this, larger doses and more frequent applications of the previously used pesticides become necessary. This starts a cycle of shifting resistance build up and the increased use of pesticides. Bicarbonate-based fungicides do not appear to create resistance build up, particularly in powdery mildews and it is expected that this applies to the other fungal species on which it is effective. This is believed to be due to its fundamental mode of action. Bicarbonate-based fungicides have multiple modes of action and resistance is not likely.
A major benefit of the bicarbonate-based
crop protection program is the exceedingly benign nature of bicarbonates
leading to very significant human safety and environmental safety
Human safety benefits include:
Non-toxic; bicarbonates are classified as GRAS
substances, i.e. generally recognized as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug
Used widely in foods and drugs
Found naturally in humans and participate in essential physiological functions in the body
Environmental benefits include:
Found ubiquitously in nature
Found naturally in plants and animals where
they participate in essential physiological
Not associated with any adverse environmental
In an ultimate state of biodegradation
Are used widely for environmental applications such as restoring acid lakes, neutralization of acid gases
The safety profile of bicarbonates contrasts with that of conventional pesticides. Many conventional fungicides, accounting for 90 percent of all agricultural use, have been found to cause tumors in laboratory animals (NRC, 1987). Other safety problems also exist. Examples of important registered fungicides used to control powdery mildew, which are of toxicological concern include:
Propiconazole, which has
been found to be carcinogenic in rodents
Triforine, which has been found to
be carcinogenic in rodents
Fenarimol, which produces male
infertility in rodents
Benomyl, which produces embryotoxic, teratogenic, genotoxic and carcinogenic effects in rodents
Conventional pesticides are also known to contribute to surface water pollution and to the contamination of groundwater. As a result the EPA is reviewing the ecological and human health effects of all pesticides (nearly 10,000 total) including fungicides. This review is to be completed by 2006. The lack of safety of synthetic chemicals, whether real or perceived, is of great concern to the general public. Products which are considered "natural" and known to be safe like bicarbonates are therefore readily accepted as substitutes.
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