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Legislative Majority Report - July 24, 2009

Tomato and Potato Gardeners Beware!

 Last month, I wrote about all the wonderful Farmers’ Markets in our area. We are so fortunate to be able to buy fresh local produce and other assorted items from craftspeople who are our neighbors and friends.

This month, it has come to my attention that there is a problem with some of our tomatoes. According to Cornell Cooperative Extension, there is something called late blight which is affecting tomato and potato plants. This is the same disease that caused the Irish Potato Famine of the 1840s, so whether you have a small backyard garden like I do, or you are a major nursery, late blight is a disease to which we must all pay attention but be careful not to confuse with early blight, which is much less devastating. According to the experts, it is very destructive and very infectious. It presents with at least nickel-sized olive green to brown spots on leaves with slightly white fungal growth on the underside when conditions have been humid – early morning or after a rainfall. Sometimes the border of the spot is yellow or has a water-soaked appearance..Spots begin tiny, irregularly shaped, and brown. Firm, leather-like brown spots develop on tomato fruit.

Here’s what Cornell Cooperative Extension recommends to all gardeners:

• Examine tomato and potato plants thoroughly at least once a week for signs of late blight.

• Spray fungicides now and continue regularly.

• Be prepared to destroy plants when late blight starts to become severe.

If you see late blight, do not put your plants in a compost pile. To prevent the spread of disease, seal the plants in a plastic bag and put them in the trash. Late blight can easily become a source of spores that could infect other plants because the spores are easily dispersed by the wind.

To learn more or for any questions you may have, go to www.hort.cals.cornell.edu, type in late blight in the search box.

You may also call the Nassau County branch of Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Horticulture Department at 516-228-0426, ext. 10, 11, or 15.

I wish everyone a healthy and restful summer!