Fungicides are chemical compounds or biological organisms used to kill or inhibit fungi or fungal spores. Fungi can cause serious damage in agriculture, resulting in critical losses of yield, quality and profit. Fungicides are used both in agriculture and to fight fungal infections in animals. Chemicals used to control oomycetes, which are not fungi, are also referred to as fungicides as oomycetes use the same mechanisms as fungi to infect plants.
Fungicides can either be contact, translaminar or systemic. Contact fungicides are not taken up into the plant tissue, & only protect the plant where the spray is deposited; translaminar fungicides redistribute the fungicide from the upper, sprayed leaf surface to the lower, unsprayed surface; systemic fungicides are taken up & redistributed through the xylem vessels to the upper parts of the plant. New leaf growth is protected for a short period.
Most fungicides that can be bought retail are sold in a liquid form. A very common active ingredient is sulfur, present at 0.08% in weaker concentrates, and as high as 0.5% for more potent fungicides. Fungicides in powdered form are usually around 90% sulfur and are very toxic. Other active ingredients in fungicides include neem oil, rosemary oil, jojoba oil, the bacterium Bacillus subtilis, and the beneficial fungus Ulocladium oudemansii.
Fungicide residues have been found on food for human consumption, mostly from post-harvest treatments. Some fungicides are dangerous to human health, such as vinclozolin, which has now been removed from use. A number of fungicides are also used in human health care.