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A No-Cost, Garden Safe Fungicide for Berry and Fruit Growers

There's a readily accessible, garden-safe fungicide to fight orchard mildew and scab.

| March/April 1983

  • garden safe fungicide - white scales on leaf
    The human urine will also work against scales.
    Michael A. Dirr
  • garden safe fungicide - yellow, mildewed leaf
    It's too late to save this leaf, but a garden-safe fungicide is available to save the rest of the plant.
    Photo by Michael A. Dirr

  • garden safe fungicide - white scales on leaf
  • garden safe fungicide - yellow, mildewed leaf

People who live in wet climates are often all too familiar with the effects of mildew on such plants as gooseberries, currants, raspberries, grapes, phlox, and roses. And if the same individuals keep fruit trees, they're probably acquainted with apple or pear scab (Venturia inaequalis) as well. Many commonly used wholistic controls aren't terribly effective against these fungi, while more potent fungicides — including lime sulfur — do indeed destroy mildew and scab, but unfortunately also kill Anthocoris musculus, a valuable predator of mites and aphids.

The dilemma does have a resolution, though, and it came about through the work of English entomologist Dr. Peggy Ellis. Since commercial fruit growers commonly spray a 5% solution of synthetic urea on fallen leaves to control apple and pear scab, Dr. Ellis reasoned that human urine — which contains 2 to 4% urea, depending on the diet — could serve the same purpose.

The entomologist first tested her idea on a backyard gooseberry patch afflicted with mildew, and was pleased to find that the urine was an extremely effective yet garden-safe fungicide. Encouraged by this success, she reported her discovery to the members of the Henry Doubleday Research Association in the fall of 1978. As a result of her report, I soon became aware of this breakthrough in wholistic fungus control. And since my own currant crop was plagued with a severe mildew problem at the time, I was able to test the remedy immediately. My results were every bit as good as those that Dr. Ellis had observed.

More work has been done, on both a formal and an informal grower-to-grower level, over the past few years. The success record is impressive enough to make me want to pass the news of this technique along to MOTHER EARTH NEWS' fruit-growing readers.

Urea, I'll Never Stop Saying Urea

Thanks to the research completed thus far, it's possible to outline both preventive and curative urine treatments. In either case, though, be aware that undiluted urine will sometimes scorch leaves and could kill foliage, so the substance should generally be used in its pure form only on dormant wood.


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