WSU CAHNRS

Washington State University

Gardening in Washington State

Lime-sulfur Spray Availability for Home Gardeners

Background Situation:

Home gardeners in Washington State haven’t been able to buy lime sulfur spray in recent years. Lime sulfur had been used for years to control fungi on roses, fruit trees and ornamentals.

There is a reason lime sulfur hasn’t been available. In early 2008, EPA questioned whether lime sulfur was so caustic that it should be reclassified as a restricted-use chemical. Only people with pesticide licenses can buy restricted-use products. This would be a problem for home gardeners; they don’t have licenses.

In April 2008, Lilly-Miller voluntarily cancelled its Dormant Spray® registration with EPA. Bonide Products, Inc., which made a similar lime sulfur product, cancelled their registration at the same time.

EPA gives retailers up to a year to sell their shelf stock in these situations. Retailers continued selling home garden lime sulfur products until May 2009. WSDA continued to register these products, and PICOL continued to list these products, through December 2010.

The confusion happened in summer 2009, when Washington State gardeners couldn’t find lime-sulfur products on store shelves even when the products were registered.

Lime sulfur is a modified form of elemental sulfur.

Lime sulfur is a modified form of elemental sulfur.

Product Update:

In 2013, Lilly-Miller registered a new home garden product with lime sulfur: Polysul®. Another company, Voluntary Purchasing Group (VPG) also registered a lime-sulfur product but it’s both a home garden and commercial use. Recommending these products requires a Washington State pesticide license. So WSU Master Gardeners cannot recommend the VPG product.

It isn’t known if stores in Washington State sell either product. Home gardeners who bought and still had earlier lime sulfur products can use them until gone.

Bottom Line:

Home gardeners may have trouble finding lime sulfur products. Master Gardeners can recommend lime sulfur products as one of several management options if and when suggested by WSU Hortsense.

Additional Resources:

WSU Hortsense fact sheets (http://pep.wsu.edu/hortsense/) on pest management.

Federal Register web page for Dormant Spray® voluntary cancellation http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2008-04-16/pdf/E8-7623.pdf (pgs. 2 and page 9).

PICOL (Pesticide Information Center Online) database for a list of WSDA-registered labels:  http://picol.cahe.wsu.edu/LabelTolerance.html.

Issued by:

Dr. Catherine Daniels
Washington State Pest Management Resource Service
http://wsprs.wsu.edu
office: (253) 445-4611
January 23, 2014

17 comments on “Lime-sulfur Spray Availability for Home Gardeners”

  1. Bob said on March 27, 2015:

    Order lime sulfur pet dip from Amazon. It is about 5X the concentrate of garden solutions.

    • Catherine Daniels said on March 30, 2015:

      Please don’t order pet dip. We only recommend pesticides registered for the use to which we put them. The first reason is because it’s illegal to use pesticides on a crop or site not listed on the label. The second reason is that the normal warning language: signal word, personal protective gear, restricted entry period, etc. are not listed in the same way on this pet dip as it would be on a gardening product. The danger to the applicator and the environment is much greater when people use non-labeled products.

  2. Hedge said on June 13, 2015:

    We have entirely too much tolerance for stupid people in this country and it is inevitably going to doom the republic. Because a Japanese suicide cult decided to use cleaning products to realize their dream horticulturalists will be denied an effective product in use for over 100 years. It is that simple.

    Professionals, like you Dr. Daniels, should collectively oppose the EPA when they do this sort of intrusive meddling rather than rolling over and scolding those who would seek solutions. The lack of common sense is invariably at the government level, not at the interested individual level.

    For those interested, make your own lime/sulfur solution. It is neither complicated nor overly dangerous but surely take appropriate cautions.

    • Catherine Daniels said on June 15, 2015:

      I understand your frustration over the difficulty in obtaining lime sulfur products. That sentiment has been expressed many, many times by our readers, so you are certainly not alone there. That being said, it might be helpful for readers if I explain what my job duties are, in order to avoid any confusion about what I should “do”.

      One of my WSU job duties is to help people understand pesticide laws and regulations. Another duty is to provide EPA with data on pesticide use during their reviews. I’m a strong advocate of using data to make informed decisions and try my best to provide EPA with data that demonstrates the benefits, as well as the risks, of using individual active ingredients.

      In the case of lime sulfur, EPA did not make their risk decision based on suicides. Their decision is based on irreversible eye damage risk, which is a physical characteristic of the active ingredient. It is also factual that people who use pesticides but don’t have an applicator’s license are much more likely to use products incorrectly or harm themselves and/or others.

      Whether I agree or not with EPA, my job is not to “oppose” them; but I do have a job responsibility to remind pesticide users of pesticide law. Users then make personal decisions on whether or not to follow those reminders based on the facts of the case.

      • Hedge said on June 16, 2015:

        By this reasoning, all ‘unlicensed’ gardening should be outright banned. You know…because ‘data’ and ‘factuals.’

      • Wayne DeBord said on July 6, 2016:

        Then don’t spray it in your eyes!! I wish the powers that be, including academics, would quit treating us like irresponsible children. I understand your legal and liability duties, Dr. Daniels, but let’s talk facts and science, not incompetence and politics.

        • Catherine H Daniels said on July 7, 2016:

          Yes, I agree: don’t spray it in your eyes. However, facts, science, human incompetence and politics all play a role in regulators creating regulations and academics making recommendations. These issues all have to be included – as a conscious decision – in order to sufficiently protect people and the environment.
          Wikipedia defines politics as “the process of making uniform decisions applying to all members of a group”. I like that definition because it also gets to the issue of fairness…in other words, not giving preferential treatment to one person from a group but not another from the same group. It’s a given that people on the top of any preference list like that feeling, and people on the bottom of any preference list hate that feeling. The issue of fairness is a personal outlook as well as a professional one. So, politics, using this definition, should always be part of treating everybody equally.
          I agree there are competent, responsible people out there as well as incompetent and irresponsible people, as well as a spectrum of people in between those two extremes. However, unless I have the chance to talk with a person for at least a few minutes, it’s next to impossible to tell where on the spectrum they probably fall so I can specifically tailor my recommendations. Hence, written recommendations have to apply to an entire group. The same is true in making regulations.
          Let’s consider an example: if any regulation or written recommendation started with this statement if you are smart, you can do XYZ, but if you’re dumb, don’t try this at home, what would you predict would happen? It’s a fact that humans routinely assess themselves at a higher competency level than they actually have. On the practical level – how would that be enforced? It’s a top-of-the-mind approach to avoid setting regulations that can’t be enforced or making recommendations that can’t be followed.
          Lastly, one of the responsibilities of regulators, and of academics, is to evaluate the complete range of situations, not just the level of training or proficiency of all applicators. Not all bad outcomes start from irresponsibility either – some of them come from accidents such as a hose bursting, a misstep on a ladder, or a hidden gopher hole next to the application site. Any one of those situations could cause a “smart” applicator to bobble the spray wand so that the spray hit them, or a bystander, directly in the face. Do we spend time making up possible scenarios so we can cover every conceivable situation? No, we use reports of actual situations. Those are the facts.

  3. Kathy said on June 17, 2015:

    The cancer-research arm of the World Health Organization has announced that glyphosate, the world’s most widely used herbicide, is probably carcinogenic to humans. But it’s OK to use it. Millions of people are at risk of getting in a car accident from driving. Driving should be banned. Hortnonsense recommends: Chlorothalonil, a Group B2 “probable human carcinogen”, based on observations of cancers and tumors of the kidneys and forestomachs in laboratory animals fed diets containing chlorothalonil.

    Chlorothalonil was found to be an important actor in the decline of the honey bee population, by making the bees more vulnerable to the gut parasite Nosema ceranae.
    Chlorothalonil is highly toxic to fish and aquatic invertebrates.
    BAYER makes Chlorothalonil. Bayer has a crimes against humanity record a mile long. Just look up Bayer lawsuits and Bayer pollution.

  4. Catherine H Daniels said on June 18, 2015:

    The purpose of the Gardening page blog is to provide peer-reviewed, science-based information on specific topics. As such, we encourage comments. However, in order to make discussion relevant, we encourage comments pertinent to the post to which you are responding.

    This blog topic is lime sulfur- not glyphosate, chorothalonil, Bayer, Monsanto or honey bees. There are more appropriate places to post your comments- and stimulate discussion on these particular topics- one is GMO Skepti-Forum (https://www.facebook.com/groups/GMOSF/) and the other is Food and Farm Discussion Lab (https://www.facebook.com/groups/FAFDL/).

  5. Tim D. Seaman said on March 11, 2016:

    I see all sorts of information about the unavailability of Lime-Sulphur. What I have NOT seen is a WSU recommendation for an alternate fungicide. Please help us with our Dormant and Delayed Dormant spraying needs. Otherwise, it is to the Pet Dips as an alternative.

    • Catherine H Daniels said on March 14, 2016:

      There are only a few problems when a dormant fungicide application is useful, and we thought we had all of them covered in Hortsense http://hortsense.cahnrs.wsu.edu/Home/HortsenseHome.aspx . However, if we have missed a specific problem, please contact me at cdaniels@wsu.edu and let me know the host/pest issue. Thanks.

    • Tim Brady said on March 17, 2016:

      I am wanting that information too.

  6. Gil Schieber said on May 17, 2016:

    And still wanting an organic fungicide for Venturia inaequalis, Apple scab. My local supplier has 20 gallons of lime-sulfur, and of my 2000 trees, I will go though 5 to 7 gallons every year.
    I will buy all of them today. And of the note of making it….I want to be responsible and make my own. And I do wear googles here at Skipley Farm

    • Catherine H Daniels said on May 17, 2016:

      Please bear with me while I answer your multi-part comment one part at a time. While each state department of agriculture, or the equivalent agency which enforces pesticide laws at the state level, may have slightly different definitions of “home garden” and “commercial” uses, I believe they would all agree that 2,000 trees would fall under “commercial” use. That use is broadly defined as “sell, barter or trade”. Your fruit production would be more than a single family could eat, even using all kinds of available fruit preservation techniques. Whether you sell the fruit to a packing house, or through a roadside stand, or processed products made from the fruit, you have a commercial operation. That means that you SHOULD be using commercial lime-sulfur products on your trees. To my knowledge, lime-sulfur products are still classified as general use, meaning you don’t have to have a pesticide license in order to buy or use the product. On a personal note, I’m very glad to hear you use goggles, and hopefully other PPE, to safeguard your health while mixing/applying the product.
      If kept from freezing, in a dry and locked storage area, the 20 gallons should last fine over the course of several years. Material safety data sheets indicate it won’t degrade if left concentrated.
      Making your own lime-sulfur would be an option only if you had a strictly home-garden situation, and you were the only one who ate the fruit (fresh or processed), and there were no untoward environmental consequences. EPA allows “home remedies” only within this very narrow set of boundaries. From what I can tell from your comment, this is not the case so you would be risking quite a lot for no real gain…I say this because you have commercial sources of lime-sulfur available to you. The most responsible action, in this case, would be to use a registered product.

  7. Alice said on June 13, 2016:

    I have redberry mites causing uneven ripening of my blackberries. Lime sulfur as a dormant spray is recommended by UC Davis extension service for control. What is the safest alternative you can recommend?

  8. Catherine H Daniels said on June 13, 2016:

    My first suggestion is to verify your pest diagnosis. In some cases, sunburn can cause uneven ripening. Master gardeners can help with diagnosis. If you live in WA, here is the contact page: http://mastergardener.wsu.edu/program/county/
    If you live in another part of the country, just web search on extension master gardener and include your land grant university name.

    As far as pesticide recommendations, please look at the PNW Insect Mgmt Handbook at http://insect.pnwhandbooks.org/small-fruit/cane-fruit/cane-fruit-redberry-mite, under HOME USE. Superior oils and sulfur products should be available at your local garden center. Make sure the products you purchase list blackberry specifically, or list the generic term “cane berry”.

  9. Jim Lebo said on March 20, 2017:

    Wow,
    Catherine, if you are still there, thank you for your advice and tolerance. These, and other posts I have seen, seem to always degrade so quickly.

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