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Underneath Disaster: Preventing & Treating Pythium Root Rot Featured

  • Written by  Lee McCall
  • Video
Prevent root rot in your grow room – don’t let your roots turn ugly! Prevent root rot in your grow room – don’t let your roots turn ugly!


The quality of urban cultivated produce, both indoors and out, is directly reflected in both the experience and the dedication of the grower who produced it. Crop diseases are a reality, and weakened plant health can lower yields and diminish harvest quality.

When growing indoors, sooner or later you may encounter pythium (common root rot), a damaging organism that can show up at any stage of plant growth, from seed up to harvest. Experienced growers understand that plant diseases like this are both controllable and preventable through the use of select additives, products and treatments while recognizing the importance of maintaining a healthy growing environment.

Starting from the ground up: Seedlings, clones and cuttings—whether propagated traditionally through the use of trays and humidity domes or newer-style aeroponic clone machines—rely primarily on temperature control and air-to-water ratios in the root zone for success. Fluctuating temperatures exceeding 75 degrees Fahrenheit or plummeting to 55 degrees create ideal conditions for pythium or other pathogens to occur in the growing medium or nutrient solution. Heating mats and water chillers may provide variable control points that allow the grower to adapt growing environments to ideal specifications.

. Favorable environmental conditions will increase photosynthesis and healthy plant metabolism, thus promoting root stability versus weakness.

If temperature control is not possible, additives made exclusively for clone machines may increase rooting probability despite undesirable fluctuations. Environmental controls and plant inoculants provide growers a higher level of peace of mind in helping to overcome the harsh elements of the grow room.

Once roots have taken hold in a new grow medium, vegetative growth may benefit from a nitrogen-aggressive nutrient supplemented with an enzyme formula. Only sterile hydroponic grow mediums or premium-quality organic potting soils and amendments should be used when cultivating in artificial environments for controlled consistency and crop quality. Mycorrhizal inoculants are recommended for any initial transplant. These beneficial fungal strands expand root mass production and proliferate nutritional uptake. Liquid, powder and granular forms are available for selective use depending on the gardening application utilized. Quality compost teas complement myco-inoculants and contain arrays of probiotic bacteria colonies that protect the root system from diseases like pythium and increase the overall mass.

Providing a clean and comfortable grow room for all specimens is a proactive way of preventing root rot conditions from developing. Favorable environmental conditions will increase photosynthesis and healthy plant metabolism, thus promoting root stability versus weakness. Depending on the strain being grown, approximately 75 degrees is a great goal temperature for a grow room. A relative 30% to 50% humidity will also suffice so long as adequate air movement is implemented. Intake and exhaust systems utilizing HEPA and/or carbon filtration systems can increase leaf transpiration, replenish healthy CO2 levels around the plants and decrease probability of insect populations from entering the garden. A lower chance of overall insects means fewer chances of getting a root-infesting insect such as a thrip, aphid or fungus gnat larvae. These insects eat decaying organic matter in the root system and may inflict root rot as nutrient uptake ceases and the plant slowly becomes overwatered.

At the first signs of root rot infecting a plant, flush the root system with plain water and an enzyme formula containing a sterilization compound. This helps clean the slate for the root system and allows it to re-emerge from a repairable condition. Systemic fungicides are applicable on some fruit and nut trees and other ornamentals, but I do not recommend such controls on edible crops. Flushing with plant-grade hydrogen peroxide solutions is another alternative sterilization additive, but it will definitely shred anything organic in the plant system. This may be exceptionally harsh on the plant and could cause burn-like symptoms to appear on the foliage, fruits and blooms.

Understanding what causes this pandemic virus is the best step toward preventing its initial existence in your garden. Always be sure to collect strains and varietals from reputable sources if taken in clone or cutting form. From my experience, temperature is the most influential factor that induces this disease to most growers, so maintain a consistent and healthy grow room with plenty of ventilation, and check the garden regularly.

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Last modified on Monday, 29 October 2012 17:28

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