How To Stop Damping Off in Hemp Plants
One of the most common hurdles in hemp cultivation is damping-off. If you’ve ever struggled with it, you know that it can be frustrating for any farmer. Learning what damping-off is and how to stop or prevent the disease from spreading to healthy hemp plants will save you a lot of time and money. In this article, we’ll discuss how to stop damping-off in hemp plants and offer some suggestions for preventing it from happening in the first place.
What Is Damping Off?
Damping-off is a soilborne disease that often attacks young hemp seedlings. It’s characterized by the sudden collapse of the stem, causing the seedling to wilt and die quickly.
The disease is caused by a group of fungi that can survive for years in the soil and spread quickly. The fungal species that commonly cause damping-off in hemp plants include:
Damping-off typically occurs during cool, damp conditions—which means it’s more likely to strike during springtime. However, it can occur at any time of year, as the pathogens can lie dormant in the soil even in adverse conditions.
Once there are optimal conditions for fungal growth, the spores will germinate and begin infecting the plants. The fungus cuts off fluid flow in the seedling, the stem weakens, and the plant dies.
Symptoms of Damping Off
Unfortunately, damping-off occurs very rapidly. Once your plants have started to wilt, it is too late to save them. They die very quickly, sometimes overnight. However, you may spot the damping-off signs and prevent them from recurring in subsequent crops.
The symptoms of this disease are easy to spot. Seedling stems turn brown, with small white lesions around the base. The stems soon become weak and thin and eventually collapse. If you notice any of these signs, your hemp seedlings may topple over within a matter of hours.
Controlling Damping Off
Once a hemp seedling dies from damping-off, there’s a good chance that other seedlings also are infected, despite looking green and healthy.
One emergency precaution you may try is to stop the fungus from spreading further by spraying hydrogen peroxide solution on the soil. Sprinkle one milliliter of three-percent peroxide around the base of your seedlings. The peroxide will help eliminate fungus, yeast, molds, and other pathogens.
However, it is not guaranteed that peroxide will save your hemp seedlings, especially when the disease is already well established. What’s essential is that you prevent the condition from happening in the future.
How To Prevent Damping-off in Hemp Plants
Below are some tips on how to prevent damping-off in hemp plants.
Use Sterilized Soil as a Growing Medium
Use a clean growing medium for germinating your hemp seeds. Avoid sowing seeds in low-quality soils, and make sure to sterilize your pots before each use. We recommend using a seed-starting medium such as Rockwool, perlite, or peat pellets.
Avoid High Humidity and Excess Moisture
Overwatering may lead to excess moisture or high humidity. Avoid frequent irrigation and install adequate drainage systems. We recommend starting seeds in a greenhouse before transplanting them into an outdoor field. A greenhouse provides a controlled environment for your seeds to germinate and grow into healthy hemp seedlings. This will help prevent damping off due to wet weather in the spring. Just make sure your greenhouse has a vent for proper air circulation.
Use fans to increase air circulation around your plants. Fans are instrumental in drying out moisture in the soil or on the surface of seed trays and pots so that they don’t become over-saturated with water—a common cause of damping-off disease. Fans can also help to prevent root rot and other plant diseases.
Avoid the Use of Teas and Fertilizers on Hemp Seedlings
We don’t recommend using nutrients on seedlings within the first two weeks of germination. Adding nutrients early in the seedling stage may enhance the growth of pathogens and inhibit root growth in the plants.
Start fertilizing your hemp plants only after they have begun to form leaves with three or more leaflets. At this stage, you’ll need to provide only a light dose of nutrients to keep the plants healthy.
Takeaway On How to Stop Damping Off in Hemp Plants
Although there aren’t many effective methods of saving hemp plants from damping-off, there are several ways to prevent it from happening in the future. With a proper irrigation schedule, adequate ventilation, and a clean growing medium, you won’t have to worry about losing your seedlings to frustrating disease.
If you have a favorite way to stop damping-off in hemp plants, please share it in the comment section below so others can benefit from it.