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What’s Eating Your Hydroponics Plants? Part 1: Unusual Problems

Keep the rust off of your hydroponics leaves. Keep the rust off of your hydroponics leaves.

We all know that our hydroponics plants’ leaves give us signals about whether our plants are healthy or not. When we see leaves that are emerald green, uniform in color, upright, and free of splotches, discolorations, ragged edges, insect pests and other defects, we can be pretty sure that our plants are healthy from roots to tips.

And yet, one of the mistakes I made when I was a less-experienced grower was to assume that leaf problems were almost always or only due to nutrient problems, water problems, pH problems, and similar causes.

Of course, you’re smart to immediately and more closely examine your hydroponics nutrients, nutrients water, pH, ppm, nutrients reservoir and other feeding-related factors if you see problems with leaves yellowing, curling, crinkling, turning brown, tip-burning, or otherwise looking like something other than emerald green beauties.

You’re also smart to immediately inspect your leaves, stems and root zone to see if mites, thrips, aphids, whiteflies, scale or other pests are attacking your hydroponics plants.

What’s actually happening is that a virus, harmful bacteria, fungi, mold or systemic disease has entered your garden through unsterilized soil, infected clones, mites, dogs and other pets, contaminated air or other vectors.

But you have to realize that your high-value hydroponics plants can be attacked by molds, fungi, viruses and other problems that are unfortunately much harder to remediate than nutrients-related problems or pest problems.

Most growers are aware of this only when they see two of the most common pathogenic problems: botrytis gray mold or powdery mildew. These evil things have been plaguing hydroponics growers for years, and hopefully you’re aware of the fixes for those problems.

But growers are unschooled about other attackers, such as tobacco mosaic virus, rust, leaf blight, pythium root rot, damping off, and Fusarium wilt.

In some cases, these attackers cause problems that look exactly like hydroponics nutrients deficiencies related to calcium, phosphorus, or potassium - leaves turn brown at the tip, then quickly dry up and die. These problems can also appear to be overfertilization.

What’s actually happening is that a virus, harmful bacteria, fungi, mold or systemic disease has entered your garden through unsterilized soil, infected clones, mites, dogs and other pets, contaminated air or other vectors.

What can you do about these problems? It depends on which problem you’ve got, and it can be maddeningly complex and frustrating just trying to troubleshoot what’s wrong.

And even if you figure out what’s wrong, it might be a long time, or never, before you can get the problem under control. For example, if you’ve had spider mites you know that you have to do multiple foliar spraying at 2-3 day intervals over a long period of time…and still you may have a minor infestation.

In the case of a virus, soil-borne fungi, or leaf blight, you may also have to wage a similar campaign (using different materials and methods of course) just to have any hope of saving your plants. And if you have some of the more persistent viruses, it’s no use - your plants are going to give you terribly small yields, or they will die, no matter what you do.

In part two of this article, I will give you some specific interventions, preventions and remedies that can help you defeat some of these attackers. In the meantime, concentrate on isolating your hydroponics plants from vectors, do daily inspections of leaves and stems, and start a counterattack program as soon as you see your leaves showing signs of pests or diseases.

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Hydroponics foliar diseases explained
Last modified on Wednesday, 01 August 2012 16:46

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