Damping off is a problem that any seasoned growers has faced in their lifetime. With the capacity to completely destroy plant crops of all kind, damping off is a risk for young seedlings as well as germinating seeds. Unfortunately, damping off is widespread, attacking everything from plants in large fields to planter boxes to gardens. Generally speaking, damping off makes reference to range of diseases that can form from soil-inhabiting pathogens. Once a seedling dies quickly after emerging from the ground or fails to emerge from the ground all together, there can be a number of issues beneath the soil’s surface.
Understanding and identifying the most common signs and symptoms of damping off is essential to maintaining a harvest that grows to be healthy and flourishing. When a plant is unable to emerge there is most likely a connection to damping off. Oftentimes pathogens attack seeds prior to germination. Once this occurs, the seeds will become soft and then change into a dark brown color, eventually decaying. Seeds that suffer after they emerge can be identified by decaying occurring around the soil line near the stem tissue. When damping off targets the roots of a plant, the plant will likely stay upright yet the growth will be stunted.
Unfortunately, pathogens inherent to damping off live off of dead organic matter, allowing them to survive for a significant time period. Even worse, these threatening pathogens are living in almost every type of soil. Seedlings are amongst the most vulnerable to damping off attacks, as the young tissue is not resistant enough to infection as the plant is growing in the cold, wet soil. However, seedlings that are maintaining healthy growth are actually notably resistant to infection and are therefore more able to handle the effects common in damping off.
Controlling damping off is best achieved with good sanitation. Things like cultural and environmental controls along with top quality planting material will allows the crops the best chance of circumventing the damaging aftermath of damping off. Most importantly, however, is that the grower pays close attention to the crops on a daily basis. Monitoring the progress and health of crops is the greatest method of protecting and safeguarding the harvest from the threat of damping off.