A threat to both germinating seeds and young seedlings, damping off has the ability to truly destroy plants of all kind. Damping off refers to a number of diseases that may form from soil-inhabitating pathogens, affecting plants in fields to gardens to planter boxes. When seedlings in these regions fail to come up or die quickly after they emerge from the soil there are a number of possible problems underneath the ground. More often than not the seeds rotted prior to germination, there were attacks at the soil line near the stems of seedlings, or the shoots were decayed prior to emerging. Growers who are able to control and prevent damping off will find that their crops are flourishing through each season.
Recognizing the symptoms associated with damping off is a critical step in maintaining a healthy, prosperous harvest. Plants that fail to emerge are often affected by damping off. When a set of seeds are attacked with pathogens prior to germination, they will eventually become soft, turn a dark brownish color, and then decay. Seeds that are attacked following emergence will cause the plant to die, often recognized by a decayed soil line near the stem tissue. In cases where damping off has attacked the roots, the plant will remain upright yet stunted. After time, these decayed roots will eventually cause the plant to wilt and then die.
Damping off pathogens live off of dead organic matter, producing spores that are able to survive over long period of time. These pathogens are present in virtually every type of soil. The seedlings are most vulnerable to damping off attacks as young tissue when they are barely resistant to infection as plants grow slowly in wet, cold soil. On the contrary, seedlings that are growing vigorously are quite resistant to infection and are thus more equipped to withstand the effects of damping off.
Good sanitation is typically the most successful way to control damping off. Using environmental and cultural controls paired with high quality planting material will give crops the best shot of avoiding the damaging effects of damping off. Carefully monitoring each harvest is imperative to protecting crops from the dangers of damping off.