Tomato Blight
A Deadly Infection Spread by Contaminated Commercial Seedlings
by Ruth S. Foster

I read that 50 % of people in this country grow food crops at home. It may be just an herb or two, or a whole variety of fruits and vegetables harvested over a many months. As one who has been growing edibles for over 30 years, I can tell stories about failures and successes of all kinds. But one old reliable has always been the tomatoes. Until this year that is.

One day, all the leaves on my big vines full of fruit, just wilted and turned brown. Tomato Blight had struck! For all those folks who also didn't have a good tomato year, the UMass Extension Agriculture Services shared some reliable scientific information about tomato blight.

The good news is that it is killed by freezing temperatures and so will not over-winter in our area (except in potato tubers). Phytophthora infestans, or late blight as it is called, does not survive in freezing soil, or on weeds killed by cold.

Normally it moves up from the south on wind currents and arrives late in the season, causing less damage. This year, it was introduced very early by infected commercial tomato transplants. (Careless giant commercial growers.) Then it spread in June's wet weather. I was told that 2 of the biggest commercial tomato farmers in my state went bankrupt this year.

What to do? Clean up the garden carefully this fall and throw out in the garbage all black or wilted leaves, fruits, stems and roots. Don't mulch with any infected plants, not tomatoes, nor other vegetables, flowers, or perennials that look wilted and blackened. Let the ground in next year's garden freeze over, and if possible rotate crops locations.

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