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Late Blight

Issues dealing with vegetable production are not the normal fodder for this blog, but given that the number one question I’m getting from media callers these days concerns late blight, I want to weigh in with a couple of web sites.

Late blight is a fungal disease that has been rampant on the Eastern Seaboard this year due to the cool temperatures and moist conditions. The same blight that caused the irish potato famine, it affects tomatoes and potatoes and any other plants in that same plant family. Sadly, the disease wipes out plants quickly — even otherwise healthy plants — and the disease spores can ride the wind from neighboring plots. So if you do get late blight, you’re doing your entire neighborhood a favor by dealing with it quickly and appropriately.

Here are the web sites I mentioned: http://www.hort.cornell.edu/department/Facilities/lihrec/vegpath/photos/lateblight_tomato.htm

http://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/lateblight.html

I’m traveling to Johnny’s Selected Seeds on Thursday of this week and will gather any information I can about disease-resistant varieties.

About The Author

Paul Tukey

An international leader of the green movement, Mr. Tukey is a journalist, author, filmmaker, TV host, activist and award-winning public speaker, who is widely recognized as North America's leading advocate for landscape sustainability and toxic pesticide reduction strategies.

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  • Paul Tukey

    Here is an update from the University of Connecticut about late blight from Aug. 14:

    After the bad news so many gardeners have faced this year because of late blight in their tomatoes, here’s some good news — it will not overwinter in (the northeast) except in infected potato tubers. The pathogen, Phytophthora infestans, survives in living tissue and will be killed by freezing temperatures. Therefore, you do not need to be concerned about your soil harboring this pathogen and creating a source of infection for next year. Most years, late blight is sporadic or absent in our area because it spreads from the south on wind currents and arrives late in the season, causing far less damage. This year, the pathogen was introduced on tomato transplants carrying the disease so it arrived early and then we had very favorable weather for disease development and spread. If you grow potatoes and they have been infected with late blight, it is important to destroy or bury infected tubers. They should be buried two feet deep. Crop rotation and a thorough fall clean-up of any diseased plants in your garden beds are still important practices for reducing the incidence of other diseases.

    Tomato fruits developing on late blight infected plants can be safely eaten if the diseased tissue is removed.

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