Pythium Species: A Brief Overview



Pythium species are an essential group of fungi that appear to be one of Earth’s earliest forms of life. They play a vital role in the cycling of nutrients in the soil. They are capable of causing devastating root diseases in many different plants. The species have a wide range of morphologies, including aquatic ones. They can survive in a variety of environments. They have also been used in scientific research to study the effects of environmental changes on the growth of fungi. Recently, the development of new methods for cultivating and studying these species has led to an increased understanding of their ecology and physiology.


What Is Pythium Genus and What Are the Characteristics of the Plants in This Group


The Pythium genus is a large group of Oomycetes that are typically obligate parasitic and pathogenic organisms, meaning they cause disease in plants. The genus is represented by approximately 200 species, many of which feed on the roots, leaves, and stems of monocotyledonous and dicotyledonous plants. Pythium is found worldwide in soil, water, plant debris, and other organic matter and is considered one of the essential plant pathogen groups.


Most Pythium species are soilborne and require water for growth. However, some species are root-infecting pathogens and can cause disease without aqueous environments. The typical symptomology associated with Pythium spp. Includes root rot, wilting and yellowing of leaves, and stunted growth. Infection occurs when the pathogen produces germ tubes and penetrates the surface of host plants.


Once inside, Pythium spp. Produces hyphae that can penetrate the roots or stems of the host and spread to other parts of the plant. Infected plants can exhibit many symptoms, including damping-off, root and stem rot, wilting or yellowing of plants, and root lesions. The severity of symptoms may vary depending on environmental conditions, the host species, and the Pythium species present. (Mendozade et al.)


The Genus of Pythium


Pythium is a fungal plant pathogen that can cause diseases to many agriculturally essential crops like potatoes, sugar beets, cotton, and turfgrass. It is classified in the genus Pythium and is part of the Phycomycetes family. Many species of Pythium have been identified, the most common ones being P. aphanidermatum, P. oligandrum, and P. myriotylum.


  • P. aphanidermatum


  1. aphanidermatum is a soilborne organism that is the most common species of Pythium. It is known to cause diseases such as damping off and root rot in many plant species. This species is most commonly found in temperate climates and can survive in moist soil for long periods. It can infect a wide range of plants, including annuals and perennials, as well as turfgrass.


  • P. oligandrum


  1. oligandrum is similar to P. aphanidermatum in that it can cause damping off and root rot in many different types of plants. It is known to be most commonly found in warm climates and prefers moist soil conditions for long-term survival. This species has also been identified as being capable of infecting a wide range of plants, including annuals and perennials.


  • P. myriotylum


  1. myriotylum is a Pythium species commonly found in warm climates and prefers moist soil conditions for long-term survival. It is known to cause diseases such as damping off and root rot in many plant species. This species can also infect many plants, including annuals and perennials. (Plaats-Niterink)


Identifying Pythium Species: Diagnostic Techniques 


Correctly identifying the species of Pythium present in a given environment is essential for effective management and control strategies. To do so, various diagnostic techniques can be employed. 


  • Morphological Features 


The most reliable way to identify Pythium species is through morphological features, such as the size and shape of the sporangia, which are the structures that produce and contain the spores. Other morphological features to look for include the size and shape of the zoospores, hyphal swellings, and septations. Unfortunately, this technique can be difficult and time-consuming, as it requires a microscope and the skills to interpret the features correctly. 


  • Molecular Techniques 


In recent years, molecular techniques have become available that allow for the rapid and reliable identification of Pythium species. These methods use DNA-based techniques to identify the species of Pythium present in a given environment. Some commonly used molecular techniques for identification include Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism (RFLP), and Amplified Ribosomal DNA Restriction Analysis (ARDRA). Using these techniques, more accurate identification of the present species can be achieved. 


  • Culturing Techniques  


Culturing techniques are also commonly used to identify Pythium species. This method involves isolating the organisms from soil samples and then culturing them in specialized media. Different species of Pythium will grow differently and at different rates, allowing for identifying the organism based on its growth characteristics. 


By employing one or a combination of these techniques, it is possible to identify Pythium species in your garden or farm accurately. Accurate identification is essential for successfully managing and controlling any Pythium infestation. (Taylor & Francis)


Management Strategies for Pythium Diseases


Pythium diseases are a common problem in many crops and can cause significant yield losses. Because of this, growers need to understand the strategies available to manage these diseases. 


  • Cultural Strategies


One of the essential strategies for managing diseases caused by Pythium is to practice good cultural practices. This includes crop rotation, removing infected plants from the field, and adjusting planting and harvesting dates to avoid periods of high disease pressure. Crop rotation can be particularly effective in reducing the occurrence of Pythium, as it disrupts the disease cycle and reduces the amount of inoculum in the field. 


  • Fungicides 


Fungicides can also be used to reduce the incidence of Pythium diseases. However, it is essential to note that many fungicides are ineffective against these diseases. In addition, some Pythium species have developed resistance to certain fungicides, so it is necessary to rotate between different products and combine other fungicides. 


  • Biological Control


Biological control is an essential tool for managing Pythium diseases, as it helps reduce pathogens’ populations and disrupt their disease cycles. Natural enemies such as entomopathogenic nematodes, parasitic fungi, and bacteria can be used to control Pythium more sustainably.


  • Host Resistance 


Host resistance is an essential strategy for controlling Pythium diseases, as it reduces the number of fungicides needed and increases yield. Wide plant varieties have been developed with resistance to Pythium, so growers must select types resistant to the diseases in their fields. (Mendoza and Prendas)




In conclusion, Pythium Diseases can devastate plants, leading to crop losses and other damage. Gardeners and farmers need to be aware of the symptoms and management strategies to reduce the risk of Pythium Disease. Proper identification and treatment are essential for controlling this destructive disease.



Wim Gaastraa, et al. “Pythium Insidiosum: An Overview.” Veterinary Microbiology, Elsevier, 24 July 2010,

Plaats-Niterink, A. J. “Species of Pythium in the Netherlands.” Netherlands Journal of Plant Pathology, vol. 81, no. 1-2, 1975, pp. 22–37.,

“Biological Control of Pythium Species.” Taylor & Francis,

Mendoza, Leonel, and Jorge Prendas. “A Method to Obtain Rapid Zoosporogenesis of Pythium Insidiosum – Mycopathologia.” SpringerLink, Kluwer Academic Publishers,




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