Damping Off Disease

05 May 2011 | Posted in Gardening by The Marshalls Family

If you are a keen gardener who enjoys growing from seed you will probably have come across Damping Off Disease at one time or another. It mostly affects seedlings of annual bedding and vegetables, but can be a problem on a wide range of plants.

It is a disease of seedlings and is caused by several different soil-borne fungi. Damping Off can affect many seedlings when sown indoors or under glass especially when there is poor air circulation and high humidity.

Plants are more likely to succumb if they are under stress, this can be caused by high temperature, high humidity and waterlogging. Damping Off can also occur if seed is sown too thickly, crowded seedlings do not dry out properly after watering, resulting in humid, moist conditions - the perfect environment for fungal spores to multiply.

While it is most damaging in spring when temperatures and light levels are low and seedlings growing slowly, it can occur at any time of year. It is mainly a problem indoors but can also affect seedlings sown outdoors in situ.

If you are new to gardening or growing from seed there are a few symptoms to look out for which will help you identify this disease:

  • The fungus causes the stems to rot at the soil surface, causing the seedlings to fall over and die. A mass of whitish fungal growth may also be seen. Once plants have been affected a secondary infection - Botrytis (Grey Mould) can also attack.
  •  Seedlings may even fail to emerge at all this is called Pre-emergence Damping Off and occurs when the seed or seedling dies before it even reaches the surface.

Avoiding Damping Off

  • Good hygiene is crucial in combating damping off and it is preferable to use new pots and trays if this isn't possible wash and disinfect pots and trays with a product such as Citrox - a powerful concentrated organic citrus extract disinfectant for cleaning greenhouses, pots, staging, tools and seed trays.
  • Always use fresh compost and avoid home-produced compost if damping off has been a problem in the past.
  • Sow seedlings thinly to avoid overcrowding and keep the greenhouse well ventilated to reduce humidity around plants which increases the likelihood of damping off.
  • Damping Off can infect plants through water so ensure all water-butts have sealed lids to prevent the entry of leaves and debris and introducing fungi to the water. Use mains water if possible when irrigating seedlings.

Fruit & Vegetable Disease Control is a traditional protective fungicide used for a wide range of plant diseases.

Used as a preventative drench when you sow your seed it tackles damping off on seedlings of both edible and ornamental garden plants and is also effective against a wide range of other plant diseases giving you peace of mind knowing that you will get the best results from your crops.

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