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Past Articles Library | Plant Diseases & Control | Damping-Off



If you like to start seeds indoors, Damping-Off is probably one of your biggest challenges to get around. The term Damping-Off actually covers several soil borne diseases of plants and seed borne fungi. It can attack seeds that have been direct-sown outdoors in cool, wet soil. It is a fungal disease that is a worldwide problem.




Seeds and seedlings of most plants.




Infected seeds don't germinate, instead they turn mushy and brown. Seeds may be attacked upon germination and before seedlings emerge from the soil. Infected seedlings get a dark, water-soaked area on the stem at the soil line. Damage spreads rapidly, and seedlings collapse and fall over as the stem collapses. Older plants that are infected have stem lesions that cause stunted growth, and can die.




  • Since Damping-Off fungi spread quickly in cool, wet soils, start seeds in well-drained soil, and provide plants growing conditions at the best temperature for optimium growth

  • Don't overwater and avoid crowding plants together

  • Keep good air circulation around seedlings

  • Add finished compost from a hot compost pile into seedling mixes. This will inoculate them with beneficial fungi that will help suppress Damping-Off

  • Cover seedlings with a thin layer of perlite, vermiculite, sand, or peat moss to keep the soil surface dry and keep fungal growth to a minimum

  • If you've had problems in the past, try using a soil-less potting mix that has been sterilzed

  • Improve sanitation. Many outbreaks of Damping-Off can be attributed to poor sanitation practices. The fungi can adhere to the surfaces of benches and previously used seedling trays. It is important to remove all dirt particles by washing and disinfecting equipment, benches and particularly seedling trays with a 1-part bleach to 4-parts water solution

  • Purchase seeds that have been treated with a registered fungicide seed treatment to protect seeds and seedlings from infection by Damping-Off pathogens

  • Don't plant seeds too deep. It causes stress on the seedlings as they grow through the soil and results in more tissue exposure below the soil line to the damping off pathogens
  • Unfortunately infected seedlings usually die, but sometimes you can save the rest by improving growing conditions by making them as warm and dry as possible.

  • Spray plants with seaweed extract as this will help strengthen them

  • Spray plants with Neem oil


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