Late Blight (the fungus that was responsible for the destruction of the European potato crop in the 1840s, as well as An Gorta Mór, the Great Famine in Ireland, and the Scottish Highland famine) has been found in the Northeastern US.

Thankfully, the disease won't be cause for starvation in the Northeastern US, since we rely on a variety of crops rather than one or two local crops. Its actually quite common in the Northeastern US, but usually doesn't appear until later in the growing season, and only in certain areas. A very rainy spring on into summer, as well as infected tomato seedlings imported into the region and sold at local garden centers had sped up the spread of the fungus, and distributed it to a wider area.

Pictures of symptoms can be found on the Cornell plant pathology website, as well as the OSU plant pathology website. The UVM extension website is probably more useful to home growers for solutions on preventing infection, and dealing with infected plants.

This is yet another reason why it could be important to buy locally grown seedlings.

Tags: Phytophthora infestans, late blight, potatoes, tomatoes

Views: 36

Replies to This Discussion

Interesting information. Here's a resistant variety - "Defender Potato"

Since the organism also affects tomatoes, I would hate it if it infested by garden.
Yeah. I won't be having potatoes this year, but I do have one tomato plant that I've kept going for a year going on two now. I was hoping to see how long I could keep it going. I may move it back into the house until the sun comes out again and dries up all the rain, so the eensy weensy spider can crawl up the spout again.
Alas, my one tomato succumbed. I got tired of trying to kreep ahead of the blight. I just learned that as long as the ground freezes, and there isn't any late blight overwintering in potatoes in the ground, it shouldn't survive.

I'll be back soon with a list of varieties that are resistant, and tested in Vermont. Other growing zones mileage may vary.
Evidently many people with home gardens are still not aware of the Late Blight threat. Vern Grubinger, vegetable and berry specialist for University of Vermont Extension, was quoted in the Burlington Free Press of August 28th: "The fact is the disease is still spreading...The biggest threat to commercial growers comes from homeowners who don't properly destroy their infected crops. We are counting on them."

Late Blight Update: Late Blight Alert for Potato and Tomato

This is very important for home growers:
"Please inspect your tomato plants frequently! If symptoms are already appearing on plants in your garden, these plants should be removed. Plants should be placed in a plastic bag, secured and discarded in the trash or completely buried 2’ or so underground so plants decompose and will not re-sprout. Plants should not be composted, put on a cull pile, or left outside due to the danger of infected tubers being incompletely composted and sprouting infected volunteer plants next year. Your neighbors, not to mention commercial growers, will appreciate your taking this action immediately."
It's actually important everywhere, as the spores get blown around by storms. We only had isolated pockets at the beginning of the season here in Vermont, and then one big storm came through and spread the misery.

Yeah, growing your own will definitely cut down on the possibility of getting plants with diseases.
Thanks for the update and advice. I suspect that this is especially important in the rural and country gardens and their potential to infect truck farms.

I've resolved that next year I'm growing all of my tomatoes from seeds. The 4 purchased plants seemed to mildew and underproduce compared to the home-started ones. I don't know if it's blight, since they haven't died outright. We've managed to get enough tomatoes for a couple each daily, and some bowls of cherry tomatoes, but nothing like last years' lavish production.

I'm also rotating the beds next Spring, with beans going into the current tomato bed, and tomatoes into the current bean-then-squash bed. I hope that rotating will reduce any disease-load in the soil.
How goes growing your own tomatoes from seed, Daniel?
Grundgetta,

I started too early but they should be OK. We are still having nights below 50 degrees. I got out my old "wall-o-water" units and set them up. THe temperature inside these is running in the 60s day and night the past couple of weeks. The tomato plants have doubled in size since I planted them inside the WOWs, so I think it's working.



Unfortunately I don't have much room. These are on the south side of the house. Even though we are not supposed to comingle potatoes and tomatoes, I had to choose a spot that had potatoes last year. THe potato plants are from missed spuds that overwintered.
Great photos! I have some Walls O' Water, but I don't have any tomato plants... yet. I may still start some Matt's from seed, and the variety that grows well in hanging baskets.
Ann Hazelrigg, Plant and Soil Science Prof. at the University of Vermont, has an update which is aimed at Vermont, but has some helpful tips for people whose growing conditions are similar to ours.

If you live in North America, I suggest calling your local Extension Master Gardener for a list of resistant varieties that grow well locally. Many EMG offices have a toll-free line to answer gardening questions.
On the off chance that there's anyone else in Vermont currently in this group, here's a list of places to purchase locally grown tomato starts.
May 21, 2010 Update:

In areas that were hit with Late Blight: Do not replant last year's potatoes and pull all volunteer potato plants.

"Sorry to say that there have been 2 isolated confirmed reports of Late Blight in the Northeastern US, one in locally grown greenhouse tomato transplants in the northwest region of Pennsylvania and the other in a southern Maryland high tunnel on tomatoes started from seed. It is not yet clear where the inoculum came from.

This is a reminder to be vigilant for the disease on tomato transplants and on potato tubers early in the season.

A good summary with many useful links
is at UMass Extension: http://www.umassvegetable.org/LateBlightAlertforTomatoandPotato.html

Hopefully weather will stay mostly dry and hot as this will limit spread of the disease."

---Vern Grubinger, University of Vermont Agricultural Extension.

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