This is a fungal disease which attacks seedling as they emerge from the soil or growing media. Often, the disease attacks seedlings at ground level and they collapse onto the ground. There are several different fungi that can cause damping off but the most common agents are Rhizoctonia and Pythium.

This is often a problem for gardeners who are starting seeds in flats indoors. In this warm, humid environment, the disease will get going as long as there are fungal spores (innoculum) around. So, the key is to get rid of all traces of spores from the past.

All flats, pots and other equipment you use from year to year should be disinfected after each use. Thorough cleaning with a one part chlorine bleach to nine parts water solution will kill most of the spores.

Also, always use a sterile seeding medium. Although using garden soil is not recommended, if you must use it, be sure to sterilize it first. This involves heating it to a high temperature and, if done in the house, can cause an odor problem.

An easier and more effective way is to use commercial potting media, perlite or vermiculite for starting seedlings. These materials come sterilized in the bag and have no fungal spores in them.

Note: We have provided some general information and observations on this topic aimed at the home gardener. Before you take any serious action in your landscape, check with your state's land grant university's Cooperative Extension Service for the most current, appropriate, localized recommendations.

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