Scientific classification
Kingdom: Chromalveolata
Phylum: Heterokontophyta
Class: Oomycetes
Order: Pythiales
Family: Pythiaceae
Genus: Pythium
Pringsheim, 1858

See text

Pythium is a genus of parasitic oomycete. Most species are plant parasites, but Pythium insidiosum is an important pathogen of animals. Because this group of organisms were once classified as fungi, they are sometimes still treated as such.



Pythium, like others in the family Pythiaceae, are usually characterized by their production of coenocytic hyphae, hyphae without septations.
Generally contain a single oospore
Contain an elongated and club-shaped antheridium

Ecological importance

Pythium root rot is a common crop disease caused by a genus of organisms called Pythium. These are commonly called water moulds. Pythium damping off is a very common problem in fields and greenhouses, where the organism kills newly emerged seedlings.[1] This disease complex usually involves other pathogens such as Phytophthora and Rhizoctonia. Pythium wilt is caused by zoospore infection of older plants leading to biotrophic infections that become necrotrophic in response to colonization/reinfection pressures or environmental stress,[1][2][3] leading to minor or severe wilting caused by impeded root functioning.[1][4]

Pythium in turfgrass

Many Pythium species, along with their close relatives, Phytophthora species are plant pathogens of economic importance in agriculture. Pythium spp. tend to be very generalistic and unspecific in their host range. They infect a large range of hosts,[5] while Phytophthora spp. are generally more host-specific.

For this reason, Pythium spp. are more devastating in the root rot they cause in crops, because crop rotation alone will often not eradicate the pathogen (nor will fallowing the field, as Pythium spp. are also good saprotrophs, and will survive for a long time on decaying plant matter).

It has been noted that in field crops, damage by Pythium spp. is often limited to the area affected, as the motile zoospores require ample surface water to travel long distances. Additionally, the capillaries formed by soil particles act as a natural filter and effectively trap many zoospores. However, in hydroponic systems inside greenhouses, where extensive monocultures of plants are maintained in plant nutrient solution (containing nitrogen, potassium, phosphate, and micronutrients) that is continuously recirculated to the crop, Pythium spp. cause extensive and devastating root rot and is often difficult to prevent or control.[1][4][5][6] The root rot affects entire operations (tens of thousands of plants, in many instances) within two to four days due to the inherent nature of hydroponic systems where roots are nakedly exposed to the water medium, in which the zoospores can move freely.[4][5][6]

Several Pythium species, including P. oligandrum, P. nunn, P. periplocum, and P. acanthicum are mycoparasites of plant pathogenic fungi and oomycetes, and have received interest as potential biocontrol agents.



  1. ^ a b c d Jarvis, W. R. (1992). Managing diseases in greenhouse crops. Saint Paul, Minnesota: APS Press. ISBN 978-0-89054-122-7. [page needed]
  2. ^ Owen-Going, Tony Nathaniel (2005). Quantitative investigations of phenolic compounds associated with root rot of hydroponic pepper, Capsicum annuum L., caused by Pythium aphanidermatum (Edson) Fitzp (PhD thesis). University of Guelph. ISBN 978-0-494-17779-2. OCLC 271429383. [page needed]
  3. ^ T. N. Owen-Going, C. W. Beninger, J. C. Sutton, & J. C. Hall (2009). "Accumulation of phenolic compounds in plants and nutrient solution of hydroponic peppers inoculated with Pythium aphanidermatum". Canadian Journal of Plant Pathology: in press. 
  4. ^ a b c Bagnall, Roger (2007). Control of Pythium wilt and root rot of hydroponically grown lettuce by means of chemical treatment of the nutrient solution (MSc thesis). University of Pretoria. OCLC 216915405. [page needed]
  5. ^ a b c Owen-Going, Tony Nathaniel (2002). Etiology and epidemiology of Pythium root rot in bell pepper (Capsicum annuum L.) in commercial-scale and small-scale hydroponic systems (MSc thesis). University of Guelph. ISBN 978-0-612-71820-3. OCLC 55510696. 
  6. ^ a b T. N. Owen-Going, J. C. Sutton & B. Grodzinski (2003). "Relationships of Pythium isolates and sweet pepper plants in single-plant hydroponic units". Canadian Journal of Plant Pathology 25: 155–167. doi:10.1080/07060660309507064. 

Further reading

  • A. J. van der Plaats-Niterink (1981). "Monograph of the genus Pythium". Studies in Mycology 21: 1–242. 
  • C. André Lévesque & Arthur W. M. de Cock (2004). "Molecular phylogeny and taxonomy of the genus Pythium". Mycological Research 108 (12): 1363–1383. doi:10.1017/S0953756204001431. 

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