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Hydra Unlimited | How To Fix Root Rot in Your Hydroponics System

Throughout most of human history, agriculture involved growing plants in soil mediums. However, everything changed during the 1930s and 1940s when a man named Dr. William F. Gericke conducted the first advanced experiments in hydroponics. His findings revolutionized the way people think about agriculture, making it possible to produce high-yielding crops in virtually any location by simply feeding plants a nutrient-rich nutrient solution of oxygenated water.
 

Today, hydroponic systems have become synonymous with the recently legalized cannabis industry, allowing indoor growers to potentially produce higher-yield harvests with fewer issues associated with pests, plant diseases, or fluctuating nutrient levels. With that said, growers should be aware that hydroponic root rot can potentially threaten cannabis crops unless efforts are taken to address stagnant water and the growth of bad bacteria in the system.
 

Encountering plant diseases can be a major frustration, but the remedy for root rot isn't overly complicated. Read on to learn more about common root rot symptoms, how to get rid of root rot, how to fix root rot in hydroponics, and what causes this condition in the first place.
 

What Exactly Is Root Rot in Hydroponics?

Root rot is a condition that can occur in plants grown either in a soil medium or a hydroponic system. In conventional grow mediums, root rot occurs when standing water remains in contact with the roots for too long, creating a breeding ground for pathogens like Pythium and Phytophthora. These fungi coat the roots in a foul-smelling slime that prevents the roots from gaining access to the oxygen in the water, effectively drowning the plant over time.
 

Another cause of root rot hydroponic growers frequently encounter is brown slime algae. Given time, the proliferation of bad bacteria (cyanobacteria) in the system can create brown slime algae growth that will suffocate plants, stunt root growth, and eventually kill the crop altogether.
 

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The Typical Causes of Unhealthy Roots in Your Hydroponics Systems

With hydroponic grows, root rot can occur when temperatures are allowed to exceed the recommended 65 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit, essentially creating the perfect environment for mold and anaerobic bacteria to thrive. Other causes of root rot in hydroponic systems include clogs in the water distribution components, inadequate oxygen levels in hydroponic nutrient solutions, and poor drainage. With deep water culture systems, root rot occurs due to the roots being submerged in stagnant water over extended periods. It's also important to note that damaged or wounded plants are more likely to develop root rot than their healthier counterparts.
 

Another cause of root rot hydroponic growers frequently encounter is brown slime algae. Given time, the proliferation of bad bacteria (cyanobacteria) in the system can create brown slime algae growth that will suffocate plants, stunt root growth, and eventually kill the crop altogether.
 

Common Signs of Root Rot To Look Out For

So what does root rot look like? The first root rot symptoms are often seen in the leaves of the plant. You may begin to notice the leaves turning a brownish color and the stems of the plant may begin to lose rigidity. However, the single best way to check for root rot is to closely examine the bottom of the plant for visible signs of root damage. If the problem is root rot, you'll likely notice a swampy, unpleasant smell emanating from the base of the plant. The roots will also appear brown and slimy instead of the white color of healthy roots. Root rot tends to progress rather quickly, and if you notice symptoms spreading to other plants in the system, it could result in complete crop failure unless immediate steps are taken to remedy the problem.
 

Assisting with Pythium Root Rot in 5 Steps

Fortunately, encountering root rot doesn't need to be a major crisis. If you discover root rot early enough, it's fairly easy to stop the condition from spreading further. If you're wondering how to fix root rot in hydroponics, here are the five essential steps for halting the problem in its tracks.
 

1. Isolate and treat the infected plant(s)

Remove any infected plants by removing the net pot entirely out of the system and into a 5 gallon bucket containing water agitate for 45 seconds with an application rate of 50mL – 100mL of hypochlorous acid. There are many products out there, but we recommend Drip Flow, UC Roots, or Athena Cleanse as these products contain 0.28% sodium hypochlorite. When using these products, follow the above suggested treatment. Doing this treatment in intervals will further aid in the prevention of pythium root rot. 

2. Remove Diseased and Dead Roots

The next step in root rot treatment is to remove any dead or badly diseased roots from the plants. Using a sanitized pair of scissors, carefully cut away any infected roots. Be mindful of keeping surfaces clean during this process to minimize the chances of root rot returning in the future.
 

3. Rinse All Other Plant Roots To Cleanse off Harmful Bacteria

With room temperature water, rinse the roots to thoroughly remove any remaining traces of destructive bacteria. Remember to clean or replace any containers and tools that have come in contact with infected roots to prevent reinfection.
 

4. Clean Out Your Reservoir and/or Add New Reservoir Water

The last step is to completely drain the reservoir and/or clean the system. Ideally, this should include sanitizing all components before returning the reservoir to the appropriate water level. Ensure the proper levels of hypochlorous acid is maintained within your top off / system. For more information on proper hypochlorous acid levels, see our Water Health video on YouTube!
 

5. Ensure Proper Aeration and Regulate Water Temperature Moving Forward

The final and most critical step in root rot treatment is taking preventative measures to keep the problem from reoccurring. You can mitigate the circumstances that cause root rot by closely watching the aeration of the water in the system along with its temperature. This may require investment in real-time oxygen and temperature monitors placed strategically throughout the media.
 

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Take Preventative Measures To Avoid Root Ailments With Hydra Unlimited

With a HydraMax system from Hydra Unlimited, hydroponic grow operations have become easier to manage than ever before. Thanks to our Hydra Venturi circulators, there's no longer any need to struggle with awkward air stones and dozens of pumps strewn throughout the system. In addition, HydraMax replaces the need for a reservoir altogether due to an automated dosing system connected directly to the pump, taking all the guesswork out of nutrient distribution. Best of all, HydraMax's clean-in-place feature makes it easy to quickly remove bacteria or other contaminants from the system without the need for complete disassembly, saving your grow time, labor, and money.
 

Hydra Unlimited has all the solutions you need to expand your hydroponic business and scale up operations. Our sustainable, cutting-edge deep water culture systems are built to speed up growth cycles, increase profit margins, and effectively minimize the threat of pests or fungal diseases that can wreak havoc on crops. When you're ready to maximize the efficacy and yield of your hydroponic crops, contact our team at Hydra Unlimited to learn more about our top-tier solutions.

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