Sunday, July 12, 2009

Breaking News: Tomato Blight Hits Big Box Stores

Poor, unsuspecting tomatoes.

The whole story is here:

The short version? A wholesale seedling distributor sold plants that have been known to carry tomato blight. And, as a result, tomato plants have been pulled from the shelves of Home Depot, Lowes, Wal-mart, etc. For tomatoes, blight is "worse that the Bubonic plague" for humans and was the cause of the 1800s Potato Famine (potatoes & tomatoes are in the same family). Also note that late blight is a death sentence for your tomatoes. But only for tomatoes. For humans, dogs, cats, and ankle-biters (kiddos), it's harmless.

What is late blight?
It's a disease caused by a fungal pathogen. Creepy. Even creepier is that it can overwinter in your soil (via perennial weeds, potato tubers)! The spores can travel (via wind) great distances and with a rainy growing season (like we've had this year), they are more prevalent.

How do I spot late blight?
"The first sign is often brown spots on plant stems, followed by nickel-sized olive-green or brown spots on the tops of leaves and fuzzy white fungal growth underneath. Tomato fruit will show firm, brown spots."

Crap. My tomatoes have late blight? What do I do?!?
Act fast: Destroy all infected plants. Do not put them in your compost, do not let them touch other tomato plants, do not pass go, do not collect $200! Throw the plants away post-haste. And sanitize any shovels/gloves you may have been using to do the deed. Ya know, to prevent infecting additional plants. Also, if your neighbors are growing tomatoes, have them check on their tomatoes. Because the spores can travel in the air, infected tomatoes can devastate your crop, even if you started from seed.

Why hasn't this been talked about more? It is unclear on how widespread this is, but there is certainly the potential to wipe out an entire season of a farmer's crop if s/he bought from the wholesaler/distributor!


  1. What do you do to kill the spores after you take out the blighted plants.

  2. You can't. The best you can do is to practice good crop rotation & not plant nightshade veg (tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, potatoes) in that spot for 3 years. And keep it good & weeded so that nightshade weeds won't let the blight overwinter in them.

    good luck!