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March pest of the month: Phytopythium

Phytopythium is a relatively newly recognized genus closely related to Pythium and Phytophthora. These groups are not true fungi and are commonly known as water molds. Phytopythium is commonly found in production nurseries causing symptoms similar to Pythium, e.g. pre and post-emergence damping-off, lack of vigor, nutrient deficiency symptoms, and root rot. Some species can cause dieback of woody nursery stock.

Similar to other water molds, Phytopythium has a motile stage, where spores can swim through water to infect the roots of nearby plants. Management must be focused on preventing infection through good nursery hygiene and best management practices, for example:

  • Appropriate drainage across the nursery, avoiding water pooling between containers
  • Good irrigation practices ensuring that plants are not overwatered
  • Disinfestation of irrigation water or otherwise using water that is clean, such as town water
  • Best practice management of growing media including fertilizer management, PH, air-filled porosity etc.
  • Disinfesting benches, growing areas and equipment between crops
  • Taking cuttings from healthy, vigorous mother stock and propagative material
  • Store your growing media optimally, preferably on concrete, covered and in such a way that water and organic matter do not contaminate the media prior to use.

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