Milk as an antifungal

curtis(5)March 24, 2014

I was reading up on control of brown rot last night. There are several blogs and etc that claim to have successfully treated fungal issues with milk. The idea is based on a 100 year old study in Canada that was turned up in 1999 and has gotten some traction since.

I want to post this to help anyone who wants to try it. I don't care to argue with anyone who does not want to believe natural things are effective. I just want to put this out there so those who want to try it can have some success.

I believe the Canadian study, but not most of the blogs & etc. I think we all have read blog posts that are in the field of our work expertise and we can see the blogger completely winged it, right?

Here is why I don't believe the blogs. From my wifes field of study the only way this would work, and it will, is if the milk is raw. Milk you buy at the store has been pasteurized, which is heated to kill the living organisms in it. The need for this in drinking milk is due to pathogens picked up on commercial handling of milk.

In many states it is illegal to buy milk that has not been pasteurized. In others you can buy it direct from the farmer only, and I believe in CA you can buy in some stores.

So you must start with raw milk for it to work. Mix milk and water at the rate of 20-50% milk and spray onto your plants every 10-14 days or after a rain. It has to be used as a preventive, not a disaster recovery.

try it for any garden or orchard issue that is fungal.

Where to find raw milk: many people won't want it bad enough to do the work to find it. Fine.. But for those who want to, the best place to start is find a local Weston A Price chapter and ask them. ( WAP is a healthy eating organization that is big on raw milk) You can also ask around at a farmers market. The milk does not have to be organic, although most of what you find available raw will be. If there is a small cheese making operation in your area you may be able to get whey from them. But you would have to inquire about the temperatures in their process.

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Oh, I know the answer to this one!! (Pretend I'm obnoxiously raising my hand, like Hermione in Harry Potter.)

Milk IS an antifungal, and SCIENCE can tell you why.

"In the presence of sunlight, milk and whey, for instance, appear to foster the production of biologically damaging free radicals, such as hydrogen peroxide and superoxide radical.

Bruer notes that in whey, "a protein, ferroglobulin, under the influence of ultraviolet light produces an oxygen radical that is extraordinarily toxic." So, any fungus that encounters it "will be in big trouble," he explains. Why doesn't it hurt the plant? Grape leaves have a thin layer of surface wax that the water-soluble radical can't penetrate.

But this mechanism also explains why the dairy treatments don't work well on heavily overcast days, Bruer adds. They need the sun's light to kick-start their mildicidal action."

It's the specific proteins in milk that kill the fungus, in the presence of sunlight. Organic/raw milk isn't necessary.

Here is a link that might be useful: A Dairy Solution to Mildew Woes

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 10:50PM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

Good article Fruitmaven! Yeah it points out something really important, use more than one product! You have to switch it up to have control. Doing this has worked really well for me, and dry milk is now added to the regime!

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 11:02PM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)

My guess is milk also gets an antifungal kick from the acidic pH. Many fungi have a somewhat narrow pH range in which they will replicate.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 10:49AM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

The few studies of milk on brown rot showed no efficacy. It does help against powdery mildew, but that disease is easy to get rid of with oil. I don't know if any studies used raw milk or not.


    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 12:18PM
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Milk is not very acidic, about pH 6.6. For reference, most rain water is pH 5.5 or so.

I have no idea of its efficacy on brown rot, I haven't looked into it at all. Brown rot hasn't been a problem for me (yet). I do use milk every winter to combat the powdery mildew on my indoor rosemary plants.

This post was edited by fruitmaven.WIz5 on Tue, Mar 25, 14 at 13:39

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 1:34PM
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I started using milk this year on my Mount Royal plums using 2cups/gallon and spraying every 2 weeks. This application program was started on July 5 and was preceded with 2 sprays of lime-sulfur in June. So far about +90% elimination of the Brown Rot (despite the rainiest summer in 17 years) vs. losing 100% 2 years ago and then about 50% last year using L-S alone. I will harvest in one month so still hoping. I'm using organic milk, but pasteurized.

I sprayed milk again today (07/27/2014) and noted about 3-5 brown rot plums per tree (well below my historic near crop loss numbers). I've been knocking these off the trees with a long bamboo cane and then flaming the ground, especially any of the affected rotten plums, with a fanned propane torch.

I sprayed again today (08/04) with milk solution at the aforementioned dilution. Still seeing only about 3-5 rots per tree per day. Still flaming each day. This rate of loss is quite remarkable considering each tree has about 300-500 plums. I'm starting to see the plums blushing with purple so the ripening process has started.

Another milk spray done on August 12th. Very few brown rot mummies now with the plums at 50-80% ripe.

I sprayed lime sulcus on 08/15 as the plum rot seemed to be taking off with our warm humid weather. I know it is mainly a barrier method but it seems to have controlled the sudden uptic in rots.

08/27-28. Finally picked plums. Very heavy crop with probably a 10-20% loss over the entire growing season. I would call this great from our historical results and plan to incorporate milk use in future spray programs; especially the June-July months.

I doubt this is random luck based on many years experiencing complete loss; including cutting down one orchard because excess brown rot.

What I think is important: 1) a fall spray of heavy homemade Bordeaux mix when all the leaves are off, 2) flaming the ground after leaf drop to burn any surface material, 3) a post blossom lime sulfur set of sprays in May-June for my zone, 4) the 7-12 day milk sprays until harvest with possible lime sulfur intervention if necessary, and daily-2day knocking off mummy starts and flaming.

As to a mechanism for the milk efficacy I'll toss into the mix the idea that the milk might modify the surface tension, or other physical attribute of the plum, and, thus, possibly inhibits adhesion of the brown rot fungie spores. It might even set uo a competing biclimate of bacteria that can repel the spores; think of yoghurt in the gut. Only speculating. It might also explain the value of non pasteurized milk that has a good bio culture.

This next week should be the real test since I would usually be at 100% loss by this time.

Finally - as to the nastiness of milk production - the attached link from the EWG, on food carbon footprint impact using factual data, seems incongruent with some opinions. Let's not confuse meat (especially beef, sheep, pig) with that of dairy.

Here is a link that might be useful: Environmental Working Group's environmental impact data

This post was edited by bobhei77 on Tue, Aug 26, 14 at 9:12

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 10:16AM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

That sounds pretty good, Bob. I had good luck with milk on powdery mildew but never tried it on brown rot. I thought I read some studies where milk was shown not helpful on brown rot, but in looking for them now I can't find them.


    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 12:49PM
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Will raw goats milk work? More people have goats then cows by me.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 5:15PM
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Scott, I believe the failure of milk sprays was shown for apple scab and I remember the discussions at a Cornell University conference a few years ago. Traditionally the next 2weeks will be the breaking point for watching on the plum bown rot as I usually had complete failure by now-to-August 1. We'll see! Here's the writeup from Mother Earth News that first got me started. Bob

Here is a link that might be useful: Can Milk Control Brown Rot

This post was edited by bobhei77 on Fri, Jul 25, 14 at 19:56

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 7:52PM
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Cows themselves are an environmental threat...why would you use their only chief product in a very vain and half-azzed attempt at fungicidal control when far more effective and far more environmentally benign options already exist? This kinda stuff makes no sense whatsoever.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 3:06AM
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Appleseed: Would you be willing to take time to type up how you have successfully dealt with fungi problems in your fruit world? Details are informative. Thanks...

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 11:10AM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Please give us an update later, Bob.

I had seen that article before but since it was one year only I didn't pay a lot of attention. I just emailed the author to ask how things have gone since writing that article six years ago.


    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 12:01PM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

.. I just heard back from the author of that article. She had to take out the trees due to brown rot problems.

Bob, you might be doing things differently than the author was. I expect its only random variation you are seeing, but it could be you are spraying more frequently/thoroughly/higher dose/etc. Please come back here to update us!


    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 9:10AM
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Current results updated in my original July 25th post.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 9:40PM
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I'm interested in trying compost tea as a sprayed antifungal. I can easily see how that MIGHT work, by a process recognized in other applications (e.g., dips in hypovirulent bacteria suspensions to inhibit collar rot I believe).

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 9:13AM
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Our 2014 spray program for using milk in part of our organic spray process for controlling brown rot on plums was updated above.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2014 at 9:15AM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Bob, its probably better to just add your updated comments to the end of the thread, it all becomes hard to read if you put things up earlier.

I did finally find your update. Good to hear you got some plums in the end. I don't think it points to much effectiveness from the milk however, the hand picking and the sulphur spraying you did could have done it -- I never did milk and have gotten similar results with similar treatment (only copper, sanitation, and a bit of sulphur).

I have a flamer and I might try the flaming in the fall to see if that helps. Maybe I can flame out a few pests trying to overwinter as well.


    Bookmark   August 26, 2014 at 4:58PM
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