Most growers could describe their long-standing reliance on conventionally-based copper fungicides as a “love-hate”relationship. While growers embrace copper as a valuable disease control component, most want to divorce themselves from the hassles endured to reach anticipated “promises for performance.”

Grower complaints and frustrations regarding conventional copper fungicides include “bluish” plant coating, settling out of material in spray tanks, nozzle clogging, equipment corrosion, and problematic soil loading.

“While copper is an important plant protectant, especially for foliar bacterial diseases on tomatoes and pepper, it does require more attention in detail and precision to get even coverage on plant foliage across a field,” said Kelly Ivors, Ph.D., extension plant pathologist with North Carolina State University.

Adding to the overall challenge, Ivors said is that many types of copper products require constant agitation to maintain suspension, which increases time and attention to get optimal performance.

Headaches in handling

Based on the amount of time and money that growers put into producing a quality crop, Ivors believes there is little to no room for margin of error when applying copper-based fungicides.

Gary Cloud, certified crop advisor and owner of GLC Consulting in Tallahassee, Fla., knows all too well about the “hand-in-hand” challenges that come with copper.

“If a copper mixture sits in the tank even for short periods of time, it falls out of suspension,” he said. “Once a product settles to the bottom of the tank, there’s always a risk of not being able to get the mixture back into suspension. Making matters worse is when a poorly suspended treatment goes out across a field.”

Cloud said that application and tank mix mishaps can put plants in a vulnerable position if not suspended properly.

Sarah Hornsby, president of Agricultural Crop Consulting, Inc., in Parrish, Fla., calls out frustrations with clogging and “caking” on sprayer equipment when applying certain types of copper inputs.

“It’s not uncommon to get clumping and settling,” she said. “We often have to stop our sprayers and clean the systems out. Plus, the abrasion and corrosion caused by copper fungicides puts a lot of wear and tear on equipment, which adds time and expense.”

Another negative with traditional copper fungicides is the thick, bluish coating left on plants after spraying, which Hornsby believes can affect crop quality and vigor. 

“Growers really dislike this physical characteristic, which we call the ‘blue hue’,” Hornsby added. “Copper hydroxide coating seems to draw moisture out of the plant. It also appears to slow down photosynthesis while temporarily halting growth and causing ‘tightening and curling up’.”

Hornsby notes that recovery does occur within one to two days. However, she believes the “blue hue” coating does put stress on plants after each application.

Hornsby said copper coating also affects the performance of reflective mulch, which is widely used for insect control on tomato and pepper acres in her Central Florida service region. “After two or more sprays, the reflective mulch gets covered up, which reduces its value and return on investment.”

A truer, “not bluer” solution

In search of an alternative copper with multi-facet improvements over market standards, MANA found an answer in MasterCop fungicide/bactericide.

“Unlike traditional copper fungicides, MasterCop is a true solution, not a suspension,” said Herb Young, brand leader with MANA. “It has a highly unique liquid formulation that actually prohibits copper within its solution from settling, which is problematic for most traditional delivery systems. And, it is long-lasting with no visible residue left on plants.

“There are significant differences between copper-based fungicides,” he said. “The key to MasterCop’s effectiveness is its patented formulation and extremely small particle size.”

In an attempt to shift grower attention to formulation particle size, Young explains that copper-based inputs coat the plant’s leaf surface with miniscule particles of the active ingredient. These particles react with moisture on the leaf surface and release copper ions that kill bacteria and prevent fungal spores from germinating.

A clearer path to success

Using MANA proprietary technology, the company touts a clear liquid delivery system for improved performance per pound of active ingredient.

Hornsby said she immediately saw key advantages with the product’s advanced formulation after using it in customer field trials last season.

“With no more bluish coating on plants or reflective mulch, our growers were excited to know they finally have an option that eliminates this visual and highly negative side effect,” she said

Hornsby believes the elimination of the “blue hue” coating may also offer some advantage in plant health.

“After applying MasterCop, the plants looked healthy with no side effect in growth or photosynthesis,” she added.

Cloud was impressed by what he saw after including it in a 2012 tomato fungicide field trial in Quitman, Ga.

“We saw very good disease control with MasterCop with no signs of phytotoxicity opposed to phytotoxicity issues at 1.5 pounds per acre of conventional copper hydroxide,” he said. “Where we dropped our rates of the other coppers, the diseases ran rampant.”

Grower Greg Church, from Unicoi, Tenn., experienced the simplicity while testing it on tomatoes last season on his farm.

“The low use rate was impressive and easy to mix,” he said. “MasterCop required minimal agitation. Plus, there was no settling, clumping or material buildup to deal with. The solution went smoothly and evenly across the field. And cleanup was hassle-free.”

Less copper in soils

Years of repeated copper applications have become a problem in some locations.

“The amount of copper going into the soil is a concern,” Church said. “Low-use-rate products like MasterCop, which has less active ingredient in its formulation, will help alleviate copper loading.”

As reported by MANA, the product’s efficient use rate has been proven to reduce the impact on soil-loading versus traditional copper products. And, because of its lower use rate, it is a well-rounded solution for producers.

“MasterCop is a ‘catch all’ solution that simplifies the processes of copper management on high-value crops,” said Young. “It’s a ‘game-changing’ product that finally delivers on what growers and applicators have been asking for.”