You can fight root rot - and win!
Root rot comes in many shapes, sizes, and degrees of virulence (big word for "plant killing capability"!).
As you might expect of killers, the various forms of root rot have big, nasty-sounding names, too - names most of us are hard-pressed to pronounce: try "phytophthora", "pythium", "fusarium", "rhizoctonia", and "verticillium", for starters!
No matter what you call it, though, root rot in any form can do enormous damage to your garden. Every year root rot robs growers of countless billions of dollars, not to mention their pride.
So, what is
root rot? It's a group of diseases brought on by fungi - bad-guy fungi that are very good at dissolving cell walls and root tissue. They produce enzymes that, under severe conditions, can dissolve cell tissues in a matter of minutes. These fungi thrive in areas of high moisture and generally warm temperatures. Thus, removing excess moisture
quickly from the root zone is one excellent strategy for helping control fungi and keeping them from spreading.
These organisms feed not only on food coming out of the roots of your plant but also on excessive quantities of available phosphate in the soil and plant tissue.
Plants can turn on immune responses if the soil is populated with enough good-guy fungi
and bacteria to chemically signal the plants to protect themselves.
That's right: soil organisms "talk" to plants. And plants listen. The biochemical evidence for this fascinating fact was only recently discovered and represents a significant advance in plant disease theory.
Soil organisms tell plants if everything is going well or if a battle is looming just over the horizon. When bad-guy fungi start to invade, good-guy fungi tell plants to turn on mechanisms that release special compounds called oligosaccharides (now there's a whopper of a name!). These are special sugars that help plants protect themselves.
Plants also can exude special compounds from their roots to help hold down populations of root rot. With the use of foliar feed products
, plants can be programmed to improve this response.
As in all plant situations, the stronger the cells are in the root tissue, the easier it is for a plant to fight off root rot. Strong tissues are built on high concentrations of available calcium
present either in the root zone or in the tissue itself.
Taking on root rot is not a simple job. Learning to control over-watering or making sure the soil can drain promptly after a significant rainfall event is key.
One important lesson is this: always maintain the highest possible quantity
of good-guy fungi and bacteria, no matter what the condition, to help fight off root rot battles day to day.