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Phytophthora: what is it, symptoms and treatment

Phytophthora: what is it, symptoms and treatment

There is a nightmare for every farmer, gardener or plant lover. It receives the name of Phytophthora, and it is a sadly famous disease to live up to its name, which means nothing more than “plant destroyer”.

As with all diseases and pests, prevention is always best and most effective, but even if infection does appear, the fight is not necessarily lost. If you want to learn more about what is Phytophthora, its symptoms and treatmentand thus be prepared to face it and take care of your plants, keep reading us in this EcologíaVerde article.

What is Phytophthora

When we talk about the phytophthora or late blight, we usually refer to it as a disease of fungal origin, although this is not exactly the case. The disease is caused by oomycetes, an organism similar to fungi, but also very close to algae. However, to make the explanation easier and not get into too many technicalities, we will continue to refer to it, as usual, as a disease of fungal origin.

The pathogen that causes it is exceptionally resistant and can survive long periods in the same soil or under it. It attacks plants from their roots and spreads from there towards the neck of the same, damaging the plant in its path.

Another of its main dangers is its enormous capacity for expansion, which is triggered when conditions are optimal for the disease: high humidity and temperatures between 8 and 15 ºC, although phytophthora can spread over a much greater range of temperatures, from 4 and 30ºC approximately.

It appears in environments with excess humidity or irrigation and it is a major economic problem in intensive farms of a large number of species, as Phytophthora affects everything from potatoes and tomatoes to conifers and even species such as grass.

Here you can learn more about tomato diseases.

Phytophthora: what it is, symptoms and treatment - What is Phytophthora

Symptoms of Phytophthora

The initial symptoms of fungal attack are easily confused with a lack of water in plants, so it is very common to increase irrigation in response and thus give the disease an ideal terrain to continue advancing much more quickly and unstoppably, as well as allowing the appearance of other diseases that take advantage of similar conditions. This is especially dangerous with high temperatures spring and summer, which further favor the development of the disease.

The mushroom especially attacks the roots and the sap-conducting vessels, which cut with great speed and cause, in a very short time, the death of the affected plant. The specific symptoms vary depending on the type of phytophthora in question.

  • The conifers are showing a drying from the lowest branches to the highest.
  • Citrus shows weakening throughout the tree, as well as chlorosis in leaves and nerves and cracking of the bark together with gummosis.
  • Other trees such as oaks, cherry trees or peach trees show progressive weakness, defoliation and, in the end, sudden death.
  • In the lawn, irregular dry patches are identified at first, which quickly spread.
Phytophthora: what is it, symptoms and treatment - Symptoms of Phytophthora

Phytophthora Treatment

Eliminating the disease completely once it has appeared is extraordinarily difficult, so prevention is absolutely key in this case. However, it is possible to fight the fungus to at least contain it. Here are some tips:

  • Regarding prevention, it is best to keep the growing area or garden free of vegetation or pruning remains, as well as to ensure a good aeration between plants that does not favor the accumulation of humidity.
  • It is also important do not overdo the risks especially during the warm months, as well as trying not to flood the areas or irrigate where drainage is poor: all these ingredients are an ideal breeding ground for the fungus, which could appear and spread quickly.
  • The preventive fungicide treatments they are also very important. In these cases, and to stay as ecological as possible, resort to organic homemade fungicides, such as the one you can make at home with milk, so that you do not harm the soil or your plants. It is best to apply them during the warm months, especially after rainy or very humid seasons.
  • If you already have affected plants or crops, you can try to apply fungicides as long as the disease is not very advanced, but if there are more plants around, it is more prudent to remove the affected plantput it in a closed bag and eliminate it, applying preventive treatment to nearby crops.
  • Also, it is important do not replant species susceptible to infection where the plant was attacked, as your new plant will most likely pick up the infection quickly. Phytophthora, like many fungal diseases, has the ability to survive in a dormant state in the soil for a long time, even several years, so you must not let your guard down or you could activate the source of infection again.
  • If you have no choice, go to the synthesized chemical treatments although, in the face of a serious infection, even these do not guarantee anything.

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