Thursday, July 16, 2009

Tomatoes Teetering

I've been busy this week and just catching up with the news that "late blight" (Phytophthora infestans) has arrived with a fury in the Northeast. This fungus usually does not strike in this area until August. The wet weather has created perfect conditions. This coupled with the finding that the big box stores such as Wal-Mart, The Home Depot, Kmart, and Lowe's, were unknowingly selling infected plants all from one grower in Alabama.

I learned from my New Roots Farm friends today at the Exeter Farmer's Market that they are infected. At least 100 sun gold tomato plants were pulled. They have their fingers crossed that other tomato plants are not infected. The fungus is highly contagious among tomato and potato plants. Other plants are not affected. The fear is that the entire tomato crop in the region could be lost. No tomatoes! Okay, we are not supposed to panic yet. If the sun stays out and the rain stays away, then many of the plants may avoid the blight. But once the blight infects a plant it must be removed.

The fungus is easily spread by wind over long distances, so that is likely how the fungus has spread from backyard seedlings to large growers such as New Roots Farm, that grow their own seedlings. Anyone with tomato plants should be checking them daily for infection. I found the Cornell University website with photos to be helpful. The fungus spreads rapidly so perhaps we'll know soon how the region's crops are faring. Infected plants should be sealed in a plastic bag and thrown in the garbage. Do not compost.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the heads up on this Ellen. I'll go check our tomatoes in a bit. I sure hope that the sun comes out and does what it can to prevent the blight, both here and where you are! With all this rain you just had to know it would have some bad affect, other than on humans who wanted to be out in the sun not sitting inside watching the rain....