What is Club Root?
This is a fungal disease that affects primarily the root of the plants. The cause is Plasmodiophora brassicae, a pathogen causing a disease that has been around since the 13th century in Europe. In the 19th century, club root was attributed as the main cause of an epidemic in Russia, which caused significant damage in cabbage crops. The fungus responsible for the disease is an obligate parasite, which means that its development and multiplication happens only when the cells are alive.
The fungal disease can spread through multiple means, such as through wind and water. If the condition is windy or if you water plants from the top and plants have no proper irrigation system, there is a higher likelihood that an infection will be apparent. To add, garden equipment can also be a carrier of the fungus. The spores are more common in a moist environment. More so, they will also thrive more if the soil has low pH level. In terms of temperature, on the other hand, the pathogen favors anywhere from 64 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Lastly, its spores may overwinter on the ground for up to ten years.
Identifying Club Root’s Damage
This is a disease that affects more than 300 species of crucifers. Whether in cultivated or wild crucifers, this is a common disease. To be specific, some of the most common hosts of this pathogen include cabbage, mustard, kale, brussels sprouts, collards, turnip, radish, broccoli, cauliflower, and rutabaga, among others.
Unsure if your plants are already suffering from club root? Below are some of the signs that you need to watch out for:
- From the name of this disease, it is evident that damage starts on the roots. Swelling and distortion will happen. There will also be a loss of finer roots.
- Above the ground, the plants can end up wilting, especially during the hot months. This is a result of not being able to receive enough water and nutrients from the roots. If infection happens while the plant is still young, it can also suffer from stunting.
- The foliage may also turn purple or brown. This is also a result of not having enough nutrients to support its healthy growth.
Results of Infestation
The infestation will be most evident in the roots, although the problem may not be easily visible if the ground is moist. If the disease happens before the plant reaches its full maturity, it is susceptible to wilting and eventually, it will die. This results from the inability to receive the essential nutrients because of the infection in the root. The latter absorbs water from the soil, and hence, when it is no longer healthy, the same thing can happen to the other parts of the plant. If the infection happens in the late stages of the plant, on the other hand, the head or the fruit may not fully develop and will not be marketable. In turn, commercial growers can suffer from profit loss.
How to Get Rid of Club Roots
Natural and Organic Solutions
Below is a list of some of the non-toxic and effective solutions for the prevention and control of club root:
- Look for varieties that can resist the pathogens that cause the disease. If you are unsure, do not hesitate to ask the seller. For cabbage, Badger Shipper is one variety that can prove to be a good choice. For brussels sprouts, on the other hand, Crispus F1 and Chronos will be excellent choices. Meanwhile, if you are planting kale, Tall Green Curled is a resistant variety.
- Keep the garden or the plantation free from weeds. High weed density can provide the fungus with a suitable environment for overwintering. Some of the weeds that are most susceptible include charlock and shepherd’s purse.
- Exclusion techniques will also be effective. This means that you should exclude from the garden any plant that is already showing symptoms of club root. Avoid moving infected plants as this will only introduce the pathogen to a new part of the garden. Pull out the plant if you suspect damage and throw it far from the garden.
- When using tools for pruning or trimming plants, see to it that they are clean and free from infection, Garden tools have the reputation of being common carriers of the disease.
- The use of hydrated lime is also worth considering. This is essential for the stabilization of soil. This will allow the pH level of the soil to be higher, and hence, make it less attractive to spores that can cause club root.
- Club root favors moist and cool environments. With this, soil solarization will also be an effective solution. Through the use of plastic sheets, this is an eco-friendly way to increase the temperature of the soil and to make it less attractive to pathogens that can bring several diseases to the plants.
- Rotate crops at least once every seven years. This is to prevent overwintering pathogens to cause damage to the crops. Aside from changing the crops, be sure to also exclude weeds and other susceptible hosts in the garden or plantation. Raising the plant bed will also help to improve drainage.
- Improving drainage is also a must. This is due to the fact that the pathogens survive if the soil is moist. Be sure that water does not remain stagnant on the surface. Avoid overwatering.
Currently, there are no chemicals that are approved for the treatment of club root. With this, it is better to limit the solutions to natural alternatives, which are not only non-toxic, but also effective. Avoid using chemicals with formulation for other diseases. Using chemicals may make the crop inedible and can be a carrier of toxicity.