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Blight of tomatoes and potatoes spreads

Green fruit affected by late blight. Note the

Green fruit affected by late blight. Note the fuzzy growth and spores. Photo Credit: Dr. Steve Johnson, University of Maine Cooperative Extension

Since late June when I last wrote about late blight, the pathogen has been found in other areas on the South Fork (being described by residents as widespread in the Bridgehampton area) and has even moved to the North Fork. 

Meg McGrath, the Cornell plant pathologist who gave me a heads-up about this year's occurrence, tells me late blight has been spotted from Calverton to Southold. There's also a report it might be in the Huntington area, but there are several other diseases and disorders that it can be confused with, so we don't quite have confirmation. Still, McGrath believes this outbreak is "at least as bad as the one in 2009."

How far the pathogen spreads will depend on the weather. If it stays hot and dry and doesn't rain again and humidity stays below 90 percent for the rest of the summer, then the epidemic will stop. But how likely is that?

The only positive note, McGrath says, is "late blight has hit my tomato variety evaluation, which has new varieties resistant to late blight and other diseases, and I am seeing control."

Figuring out the source of the pathogen is key to controlling this year's outbreak. And McGrath is on it.

 In the meantime, if you're growing tomatoes or potatoes, keep an eye out for symptoms.


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