How to counter root rot in hydroponic systems

Hydroponic gardens come with plenty of benefits. You can grow year-round, no matter where you live. You may enjoy higher yields, and hydroponic systems usually require less water than traditional gardens. But hydroponic planting is not problem-free, and one of the biggest of those problems is hydroponic root rot.

The pathogen that causes both terrestrial and hydroponic root rot is Pythium. Pythium includes over 200 species that reproduce and spread rapidly in aquatic environments. Infected plants may have stunted growth and reduced fruit production, and it’s possible the infection will kill plants that are stressed or not yet fully established. How does Pythium get into a hydroponic system? What can you do about it?

Sometimes, knowing the origin of the problem can be helpful in knowing what to do about it. As the name suggests, Pythium attacks a plant’s roots, causing “necrotic lesions on root tips or fine feeder roots,” according to the Penn State Department of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology. In severe cases, the disease can move further into the plant and attack the vascular system.

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts found that in hydroponic systems, the spread of Pythium may be especially “explosive” due to the rapid reproduction of the pathogen and its ability to spread quickly through the aquatic medium. Clearly, that’s not ideal for your hydroponic garden. So, where does this pathogen come from? And what conditions favor its spread?


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