How to prevent seedling death or damping-off?

pine death

Watching trees grow from seed is an enriching and precious experience. Despite the fact that today it is already known how they germinate, sometimes it is hard to believe that from something so tiny plants can emerge that, in most cases, exceed ten meters, and some, such as sequoias, reach 116m. .

And that's not to mention how vulnerable they are during the first two years of life. In this sense, one of the most dangerous diseases is what is known as damping-off or death of seedlings. As soon as the first symptoms appear, there is usually nothing that can be done, but… did you know that it can be prevented?

What is?

seedling death

Damping-off, much better known as I said as seedling death or by the name of fungal wilt, is a disease caused by different fungi, among them the most common in tree nurseries are Botrytis, Pythium and Phytopthora, although there are others such as Sclerotium or Rhiztonia that cannot be ruled out. They infect seeds or seedlings shortly after germination, causing death.

What are the symptoms?

There are several symptoms that should make us suspect that we are facing a possible case of fungal wilt, or that we could be soon:

  • Seeds:
    • weak
    • a little softer than they should be
  • Seedlings:
    • stem thinning
    • appearance of a whitish spot around the base of the stem
    • leaf browning

How to prevent damping off?

As deadly as it is, there are a number of really simple prevention methods. The first goes through use a new substrate that also facilitates rapid water drainage, such as vermiculite or if you prefer peat mixed with 30% perlite or similar.

Likewise, it is very, very important to use fungicide. From experience, I recommend treating the seeds before sowing with a spray fungicide, and then, once sown, sprinkle powdered sulfur (or fungicide again if it's summer) over the surface of the substrate.

Lastly, you have to keep the seedbed outside and well watered, that is, trying to avoid waterlogging. Both the lack of ventilation and high humidity favor the proliferation of fungi, so measures must be taken before they appear.

Can a sick plant be recovered?

coffee seedling

Once the symptoms have appeared you have to treat it with fungicide urgently, but that is not a guarantee of success. Fungi are complex microorganisms, and the products that exist have not yet managed to completely eliminate them; so that unfortunately the most common thing is that the plants die even after having been treated.

I hope it has served you and you can have a good and happy sowing from now on.

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  1.   GALANTE NACHO said

    Hello Monica.

    My brother plants everything that moves and we already have about 70 little plants of Acacia of Constantinople, 30 of Maple and 20 of Trees of Love. I will ask him to enter the blog so that he is informed. A very interesting article!

    A cordial greeting,

    1.    todoarboles said


      Oysters, well, to have obtained so many trees... surely you already know more than one trick hehe Congratulations.


  2.   jose said

    I am a simple fan of this but I have two 500m2 nurseries, the more I read the more I get overwhelmed, because I do nothing of what you say, until now I am getting rid of it, but one day the mushrooms devastated me. I use and produce a lot of worm castings and diatomaceous earth. If you can look at my page ARBA Huelva.

    1.    todoarboles said

      Hello Joseph Carlos.

      I understand that diatomaceous earth is a good preventive fungicide, so that is surely one of the reasons why your plants grow healthy 🙂

      A greeting and thanks for comment.