Damping-Off Diseases

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Damping-off diseases of seedlings are found worldwide and can be caused by several species of fungi under various weather conditions. The name damping-off is in standard use in the literature and usually refers to the disintegration of stem and root tissues at and below the soil line. The plant tissue become water-soaked and mushy, and the seedling wilts and falls over. Damping-off disease, however, can have several phases. The fungi that cause these diseases can attack the seed or the seedling before it emerges above the soil surface, causing a seed rot or pre-emergent rot. When this happens, the result is a poor stand that maybe mistakenly ascribed to poor seed quality or seed maggots rather than the presence of a disease. The death of seedling after emergence or transplanting is called postemergent damping-off and is the condition most often identified as damping-off (although this symptom may also be caused by maggots).

Franklin Laemmlen
University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources