Malathion used to be the most common insecticide used for fruit pest control by gardeners but is becoming more difficult to find. It isn’t nearly as sensitive to alkaline hydrolysis as captan but still will break down under high pH conditions. Fortunately, it is stable at a pH between 5 and 7. Lambda-cyhalothrin, found in Bonide Fruit Tree & Plant Guard, is a relatively new product for home fruit pest control that also is stable between a pH of 5 to 7.
Note that alkaline hydrolysis does not affect all pesticides. Captan is the exception, not the rule. Cornell University has a listing of pesticides and their sensitivity to alkaline hydrolysis.
So, how do you bring down the pH of your spray water if it is high? Commercial people use buffering agents but that may be difficult for homeowners to find. Food grade citric acid can help. If you have a pH of 8.0, add 2 ounces of this citric acid per 100 gallons of water (1 and 1/4 teaspoons per 10 gallons) to bring the pH down to about 5.5. If you do not know what the pH of your water is, contact your local Extension office for instructions on how to test. Our K-State Research & Extension website has a map to help you locate your local county Extension office. (Ward Upham)