Can my plant be protected from root rot?

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Got a plant with wilting leaves despite plenty of water? Your plant may have a root rot disease. A close relative of other diseases such as sudden oak death and crown rot, root rots are caused by oomycete pathogens. This is something you don’t want your plants to get because there is rarely a favorable outcome.

What exactly is root rot?

While they behave in many ways like fungi, oomycetes are not true fungi but instead a group of relatives commonly known as “water molds.” This is due, at least in part, to the group’s association with wet soil conditions. Oomycetes release spores that travel through water to healthy tissue and cause new infections. These spores can be asexual (sporangia) or sexual (oospores), although for many species, sexual spores are observed primarily in laboratory settings.

Common oomycete pathogens of plants include Phytophthora Species Pythium species, and downy mildew (family Peronosporaceae). All are common pathogens of a wide variety of plants. Pythium And Phytophthora The species commonly causes root and crown rot. Almost all plants are, to some extent, susceptible to root rot and usually do not recover once infected.

What does root rot look like and what can I do about it?

Root rot diseases can be devastating and difficult to manage. Symptoms include wilting, leaf discoloration, vascular discoloration, root discoloration, and lesions that can block the stem at the soil line. If you notice leaves wilting even when water is available, dig up a few roots. If they look dark, weak, and unhealthy, you may be dealing with root rot. Here are some tips for managing and preventing root rot.

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1. Remove and destroy the plant.

Root rot pathogens can survive in wet soil and be transferred between plants, so it is important to remove diseased plants immediately when observed. If you are concerned about the spread of a pathogen to nearby healthy plants, consider submitting the diseased plant to a plant diagnostic laboratory for analysis. A lab can identify the pathogen and provide management recommendations.

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2. Provide good drainage and avoid overwatering.

The most important strategy to prevent root rot is to not overwater. Be sure to place your plant in a well-drained location, and choose less sensitive, water-loving plants for wet areas of your garden. If you’re not sure if your plant needs water, stick your finger into the soil near the roots. If you can feel moist soil before your first knock (1 to 2 inches), don’t water. Most plants need less water in the fall and winter, because they aren’t photosynthesizing and transpiring the way they do the rest of the year.

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3. Minimize the risk of further contamination.

Because the pathogen can be transferred from plant to plant and throughout the growing medium, do not fertilize diseased plants or leave them in your garden. Likewise, keep your gardening supplies clean by disinfecting tools, pots, flats, and other items that may come into contact with diseased plant tissue. Easy-to-use disinfectants include 70% ethanol (rubbing alcohol) or 10% diluted bleach (1 part bleach, 9 parts water) sprayed onto the surface and allowed to dry.

—Nicholas Goltz, DPM, is a plant pathologist and Extension educator based in the northeastern United States, where he helps growers and homeowners find holistic and holistic solutions to plant problems.

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