A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Late Blight Disease - Check Your Tomato and Potato Plants

Newsday says the plant disease that caused the Irish potato famine in the 1840's has been discovered in tomato plants being sold on Long Island. According to the Franklin County (NY) Cornell Cooperative Extension, Late Blight Disease is being found in big box stores from New Jersey to Maine, even Montreal, Canada, and as far west as Ohio.

If you are a home gardener in the Aberdeen, NJ area, it is important that you read up on this disease and follow the guidance provided by agricultural specialists. The disease can easily move to commercial farms through the wind, so gardeners must control any outbreaks of the disease in home gardens.

I've excerpted sections of the Franklin County article below:

Late blight arguably remains the single most important disease of tomatoes and potatoes in the world today, with new, more aggressive strains of the fungus causing widespread damage and creating epidemics in, among other places, practically every major tomato- or potato-growing region of the United States.

The ease with which late blight can spread from garden to garden, from garden to farm, or from farm to farm, even over great distances, cannot be overstated. This puts farmers who grow tomatoes or potatoes at serious risk of losing their entire season's income. To prevent that from happening, Extension educators are asking that we, as gardeners, neighbors and community minded individuals, unite in our efforts to protect both garden crops and the commercial field crops produced by the local farming community.

Gardeners must learn to recognize late blight symptoms and use all available disease management practices. An effective prevention program should include cultural and chemical management practices that will reduce the potential for occurrence, spread and losses from late blight. This is best accomplished by buying disease-free tomato plants and certified disease-free potato seed, planting late blight-resistant varieties, destroying volunteer tomato and potato plants (those growing from last year's planting, cull or compost piles) and regularly using protective fungicides.

The Cornell University Department of Horticulture is recommending that gardeners act quickly to protect their home garden tomato and potato plants and to make sure that their plants don't become a source of spores that could infect other plantings, including those of commercial growers and farmers. If you are growing tomatoes or potatoes in your home garden, you should take the following steps:

  • Examine tomato and potato plants thoroughly at least once a week for signs of late blight
  • Spray fungicides preventively and regularly and/or
  • Be prepared to destroy garden tomato and potato plants should late blight start to become severe.


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