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Copper is used as an algaecide, bactericide and fungicide in many crops. It acts by disrupting cellular proteins. It is toxic if ingested but only if it is swallowed in large quantities and will cause irritation of the gastro-intestinal tract, which will be relieved with time. Copper is an essential micro-nutrient and humans need a small amount in their diet.
Copper fungicides are formulated as wettable powders, water dispersible granules and suspension concentrates. There are a number of copper compounds used as the active ingredient, the most common being cuprous oxide, copper oxychloride and copper hydroxide. These are sold under a variety of trade names and are available in different formulations including ‘Camelot’, ‘Junction’ and ‘Kocide’. The fungicides differ in their use rate, re-entry interval, pre-harvest interval and the quantity of copper as well as the cost. They are generally regarded as having moderate to low hazard to plants and soil but they can be phytotoxic if applied in high concentrations or for long periods of time.
The size of the Cu2O NPs has a significant impact on the antifungal activity of the material. Increasing particle size increases the surface area and thus the antimicrobial activity. Small particles also have a lower solubility in water and are more likely to adhere to plant surfaces. Impregnation methods (green or chemical route) and fabric type also have a significant influence on the effectiveness of the materials. Fabrics functionalized with the green synthesised material have a higher antibacterial and fungicidal activity than those treated with the chemical route.