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Comparative analysis of copper and zinc based agrichemical biocide products: materials characteristics, phytotoxicity and in vitro antimicrobial efficacy

1 NanoScience Technology Center, University of Central Florida, 12424 Research Parkway, Suite 400, Orlando, FL 32826, United States
2 Department of Chemistry, University of Central Florida, 12424 Research Parkway, Suite 400, Orlando, FL 32826, United States
3 Department of Material Science and Engineering, University of Central Florida, 12424 Research Parkway, Suite 400, Orlando, FL 32826, United States
4 Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Central Florida, 12424 Research Parkway, Suite 400, Orlando, FL 32826, United States.

In the past few decades, copper based biocides have been extensively used in food crop protection including citrus, small fruits and in all garden vegetable production facilities. Continuous and rampant use of copper based biocides over decades has led to accumulation of this metal in the soil and the surrounding ecosystem. Toxic levels of copper and its derivatives in both the soil and in the run off pose serious environmental and public health concerns. Alternatives to copper are in great need for the agriculture industry to produce food crops with minimal environmental risks. A combination of copper and zinc metal containing biocide such as Nordox 30/30 or an improved version of zinc-only containing biocide would be a good alternative to copper-only products if the efficacy can be maintained. As of yet there is no published literature on the comparative study of the materials characteristics and phyto-compatibility properties of copper and zinc-based commercial products that would allow us to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of both versions of pesticides. In this report, we compared copper hydroxide and zinc oxide based commercially available biocides along with suitable control materials to assess their efficacy as biocides. We present a detailed material characterization of the biocides including morphological studies involving electron microscopy, molecular structure studies involving X-ray diffraction, phytotoxicity studies in model plant (tomato) and antimicrobial studies involving surrogate plant pathogens (Xanthomonas alfalfae subsp. citrumelonis, Pseudomonas syringae pv. syringae and Clavibacter michiganensis subsp. michiganensis). Zinc based compounds were found to possess comparable to superior antimicrobial properties while exhibiting significantly lower phytotoxicity when compared to copper based products thus suggesting their potential as an alternative.
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