Root Rot: Prevent it Now!
Root Rot is a generic name for several common opportunistic waterborne diseases that can seriously affect indoor and outdoor crops year round.
Plain and simple, Root Rot (decomposition of the roots) is primarily caused by Anaerobic Conditions (lack of oxygen) in the root zone.
You’ll find other reasons or causes for the disease such as temperature conditions, diminished or stagnant circulation rate of nutrient solutions or the introduction of harmful Pathogens in your gardening system, but at the core is the lack of oxygen in the root zone that make these conditions worse by making it difficult for the roots and beneficial microbes to get the oxygen they need, causing them to decay. (See Anaerobic Respiration)
We know from experience that Root Rot is often lethal. And, treating Root Rot is more difficult than preventing it.
Common Sense Prevention for a Potentially Fatal Problem
- Cover Ebb and Flow System nutrient reservoirs to prevent contaminated debris from entering the system
- Filter return water through a coarse screen to remove potting soil and plant debris to help keep Pathogens like Pythium out of the reservoir system
- Treat pond or other untreated water with a filtration system before you use it to irrigate your plants (See Rainwater Harvesting)
- If you collect water from other sources or have untreated well water, you should have it checked or treat it before using it to irrigate the plants
- Use an air pump, air stones, air diffusers or use an inexpensive alternative by using a product like HydroRush that will release available O2 molecules from existing sources in your growing environment
- Maintain a low pH of 6.2 or less to inhibit harmful Pathogen growth
- Don’t bring the outside inside. Do not move plants from your outdoor soil garden to your hydroponic garden. Outdoor plants could have Pythium spores that are not problematic for outdoor plants, but could be lethal to a hydroponic garden
- Prevent pets from the growing environment to prevent contamination. Pet fur and paws could be good sources of unwanted organisms
- Wash your hands before working in your hydroponic garden to remove any fungus spores you may have picked up. Do not wear shoes in your hydroponic area that you have worn in your soil garden
- Keep your system clean. Disinfect all surfaces, potting benches, tools, and equipment that will come in contact with your growing system. Periodically, thoroughly clean and disinfect ebb and flow reservoirs, benches, and flood and drain floors.
We prefer using a product like HydroRush that will promote the growth of beneficial microbes that will help eliminate or reduce the use of harmful or poisonous chemicals like Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2)
Oxygen at the Root Zone
Lack of oxygen at the root zone is the leading cause of root death and decomposition.
Roots + Oxygen = Healthy Roots and Plants
Decomposing organic material in the nutrient solution or trays can also cause lack of oxygen. This material should always be removed. Another problem could be too many plants competing for too little oxygen. High root zone temperatures can also worsen these problems. (See Goldilocks and Your Root Zone).
A healthy root zone is a continuously growing one. As long as there are new roots developing, some root death should not be a concern. The natural death of older roots and the production of new ones should be expected.
A young plant root system should have lots of bright white furry root tips. A healthy mature root system will be strong and fibrous and have a thick root mat. If the roots are cream or yellow colored on top of the mat, they should still have many bright white root tips underneath at the bottom.
Thick, fat, white furry roots indicative of healthy root growth and are what you ultimately want to see.