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Botrytis vs Fusarium Species: Can You Tell The Difference?

In the realm of cannabis cultivation, disease outbreaks represent a formidable challenge for growers. Pathogens, lurking at all stages of growth, continuously threaten to compromise plant health and yield potential (Gwinn et al., 2022). Fungal infections caused by species from genera like Botrytis and Fusarium have emerged as significant threats to these plants. This article delves into the different species of these genera, highlighting the unique symptoms they induce in Cannabis plants. Understanding these variations is pivotal for effective disease management strategies.

Botrytis: The Gray Mold Fungus and Its Counterparts

Botrytis cinerea, notorious for causing gray mold, stands as a prominent pathogen capable of inflicting rapid and catastrophic damage on cannabis crops globally (Balthazar et al., 2022). This airborne necrotrophic pathogen thrives on a diverse range of symptoms, often leading to crop devastation within a mere week. While B. cinerea is the primary species within this genus, mostly recognized for infecting this crop, another counterpart Botrytis pseudocinerea poses a threat to inflorescences; nevertheless, it displays lower aggressiveness. Additionally, Botrytis porri has been identified in Cannabis; however, its pathogenicity remains secondary (Mahmoud et al., 2023).

Botrytis Symptoms and Spread

B. cinerea‘s impact as a pathogen is undeniable, leading to die-back, tissue necrosis, seedling damping-off, stem canker, and yield reductions in inflorescences (Mahmoud et al, 2023). Both B. cinerea and B. pseudocinerea can target the upper sections of the plant like inflorescences, and occasionally infiltrate the petiole or stem. Gray to white mycelium and Botrytis-like conidiophores frequently emerge from the infected tissue. These species are widely associated with these symptoms, rapidly inflicting significant harm upon the plant’s health (Garfinkel, 2020).

So, you should be aware of these symptoms:

  1. Grayish-Brown Fuzzy Growth: One of the hallmark signs of Botrytis infection is the development of grayish-brown fuzzy growth on various parts of the plant, such as inflorescences, leaves, buds, and stems.
  2. Bud Rot: Botrytis-infected buds often turn brown, with a mushy texture. The fungus infiltrates the buds, leading to a musty smell and eventual decay.
  3. Necrosis and Leaf Spotting: Infected leaves develop necrotic spots and start to wither, impacting the overall health of the plant.

Fusarium: A Threat to Cannabis Health

Fusarium, a versatile genus of fungi including some pathogens, emerges as one of the most destructive forces affecting Cannabis. Particularly impactful during root and vegetative growth phases, Fusarium infections lead to reduced plant quality and, at times, complete plant loss. The dire consequences of Fusarium infection extend even to postharvest, marked by mycotoxin production that further diminishes the crop’s value (Gwinn et al, 2022).

The Spectrum of Fusarium Species

The Fusarium genus presents a diverse range of species with the potential to significantly damage cannabis plants. These diseases manifest in various forms, often linked to vascular wilts, seedling damping-off, crown and lower stem rot, root and seed decay, as well as head and grain blights (Punja, 2021). While Fusarium oxysporum is widely known for causing wilt in Cannabis plants, there are other species to consider. A closer examination of prevalent species and their symptoms reveals the complexity of their impact, urging cultivators to heighten their awareness, as shown in the following tab:

*Source: Gwinn et al (2022), Punja (2021), and Punja et al (2021).

Some of the typical symptoms of Fusarium infection in Cannabis can be:

  1. Wilting and Yellowing: Fusarium-infected plants exhibit wilting and yellowing of leaves. This is a result of the fungus obstructing water transport in the vascular system.
  2. Stunted Growth: Plants infected with Fusarium may experience stunted growth due to reduced nutrient and water uptake.
  3. Damping-off: seedlings that appear weak and withered, exhibiting lesions on the stem that cause a sinking effect and display a water-soaked appearance at ground level. The most distinctive feature of this disease is the complete collapse of the stem onto the ground.

Distinguishing Between Fusarium and Botrytis Species

Effectively distinguishing between Fusarium and Botrytis species is paramount in ensuring accurate disease management strategies for Cannabis crops. While both genera present unique challenges, their symptoms and characteristics can differ significantly. Fusarium infections are often associated with wilting, yellowing, and stunted growth, alongside the potential for damping-off in seedlings and various rot types (Gwinn et al., 2022). On the other hand, Botrytis infections manifest as grayish-brown fuzzy growth, bud rot, necrosis on leaves, and also inflict characteristic damage on inflorescences (Balthazar et al., 2022). While we have highlighted some of the symptoms and species in this article, the list is extensive. By recognizing these distinct symptoms and understanding their implications, growers can make better and more informed decisions when it comes to treatment and prevention measures.

Undoubtedly, fostering awareness about the diverse Botrytis and Fusarium species that pose a threat to cannabis plants stands as a crucial responsibility for cultivators and growers. Misdiagnosing an infection can precipitate misguided treatment strategies, ultimately resulting in grievous crop losses and economic setbacks. By equipping cultivators with information about the distinctive symptoms linked to different species, they are empowered to make informed decisions in the realm of disease management. Yet, beyond the realm of awareness, the cornerstone of effective disease control lies in accurate diagnostic testing.

In the ever-expanding world of Cannabis cultivation, staying informed about potential threats such as Botrytis and Fusarium species is crucial. By understanding the differences in symptoms caused by these pathogens, growers can take proactive measures to protect their crops and maximize their yields. Additionally, testing sites play a pivotal role in offering accurate diagnostics, allowing cultivators to identify the specific species responsible for infections and tailor their management strategies accordingly. As the cannabis industry continues to evolve, a comprehensive understanding of these fungal pathogens will contribute to the overall success and sustainability of cannabis cultivation practices.


Balthazar, Carole, et al. “Biocontrol activity of Bacillus spp. and Pseudomonas spp. against Botrytis cinerea and other cannabis fungal pathogens.” Phytopathology® 112.3 (2022): 549-560.

Gwinn, Kimberly, et al. “Diseases of Cannabis Sativa Caused by Diverse Fusarium Species.” Frontiers in Agronomy, vol. 3, 2022, p. 796062,

Garfinkel, A. R. “Three Botrytis species found causing gray mold on industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa) in Oregon.” Plant Disease 104.7 (2020): 2026-2026.

Mahmoud, Mohannad, et al. “Understanding bud rot development, caused by Botrytis cinerea, on cannabis (Cannabis sativa L.) plants grown under greenhouse conditions.” Botany (2023).

Punja, Zamir K. “Emerging diseases of Cannabis sativa and sustainable management.” Pest management science 77.9 (2021): 3857-3870.

Punja, Zamir K., Li Ni, and Alastair Roberts. “The Fusarium solani species complex infecting cannabis (Cannabis sativa L., marijuana) plants and a first report of Fusarium (Cylindrocarpon) lichenicola causing root and crown rot.” Canadian Journal of Plant Pathology 43.4 (2021): 567-581.

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