A fungicide is a chemical pesticide compound that kills or inhibits the growth of fungi. In agriculture, fungicide is used to control fungi that threaten to destroy or compromise crops. Gardeners use fungicide as a household pesticide to protect plants from potential destruction. In medicine, fungicide is used to kill fungal infections. The drugs used to kill these infections are referred to as antifungal drugs.
Government agencies monitor the use of fungicide in agriculture and medicine. Fungicide is classified as a pesticide when used on plants and is subject to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards. Most fungicides are toxic to humans and can present both acute and chronic problems if absorbed into food eaten by people. There are also environmental issues that the EPA must address resulting from the use of fungicide in agriculture, including runoff into streams and lakes.
In medicine, infections caused by a fungus, such as ringworm and yeast infections, must be treated with an antifungal medication. Antifungal medications can be orally or topically administered, and many fungal infections are treated with both methods.
For household use, fungicide is available in spray or powder form and is designed for both flower and vegetable gardens. The purpose of fungicide is to kill fungi that compete directly with other organisms, causing their destruction. Not all fungi are harmful, though. Edible mushrooms and the single-celled fungus used in yeast for baking are examples of non-toxic fungi. Poisonous mushrooms are the best known example of harmful fungi, and mistaken identity accounts for a fair amount of illness and even death each year. If you are not familiar with the different varieties of mushroom growing wildly, never pick and eat them.
When using fungicide in a garden, it is important to be aware of its proper use. Always follow directions when treating plants, and be sure to keep pets away from the treated area. In vegetable gardens, be sure you know how to properly execute treatment and whether it is safe to use the pesticide on your particular edible plants.