Why Do Seedlings Damping Off/ Die Off & How To Protect Them?

Started your seeds with lots of love & care, felt on the moon when seedlings sprout, but gets disheartened when you see them drop & die. Let’s discuss why do seedlings damping off & how to protect them?

damping off

Damping Off. Source

What is Damping Off?

Damping off is a disease of seedlings and results in their sudden death. It is normally caused by soil-borne fungus. Sometimes the seeds never sprout, other times they do and quickly topple over in a characteristic manner. The amount of damage to seedlings depends on the particular fungus, soil moisture and temperature. Often these fungal spores reside in the soil and can be transferred by contaminated garden tools, blown by the wind, or born by insects.

Symptoms of Damping Off

  • Seedlings fail to emerge from the soil.
  • Seedling stems is water soaked, soft or mushy.
  • Seedling stems become thin, almost thread like, where infected.
  • Young leaves wilt and turn to brown.
  • The roots of a diseased plant will appear brown or black.

Cause of Damping Off

  • Fungus – the soil borne fungus is the major reason behind damping off disease.
  • Raw manure in the soil – While preparing the soil for starting seeds, we do not take into account that the manure we are using in matured (decomposed) or not. Using partially matured or composted manure results in seedlings damping off.
  • No proper drainage of water in the seedling tray.
  • Over Watering
  • Watering during the day (especially in the afternoon).

Damping off Prevention

There is no cure for damping off once it has started to kill your plants, nor any fungicides available. You can only prevent damping off by following just a few simple techniques.

  • The most perfect control of damping-off is by soil treatment. The soil should be sterilized by suitable methods to make it free from the fungus. Some of the common methods of soil sterilization are by using heat and chemicals. Just bake your soil at 140 degrees for at least 30 minutes.
  • Add a good amount of sand in soil for proper drainage.
  • Seed trays should have proper drainage holes.
  • Mix any fungicide in soil prior to sowing seeds or spray it three days after sprouting.
  • Use clean water to water young seedlings. Light irrigation at frequent intervals should be given, water-logging should be avoided. A system of watering should be maintained to ensure that the seedlings and the surface of the seedbed soil remain dry without permitting the seedlings to suffer from lack of water. A thin layer of sand should be sprinkled over the surface of the soil. This aids in keeping the surface of the seedbed soil dry.
  • If the weather is hot, place the seedling under GreenNet or place them in the shade.
  • Sterilize all used pots, trays and tools.
  • Do not apply fertilizer to seedlings until several true leaves have developed.

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