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Late blight strikes tomato plants in Central New York

Late blight has been found in Central New York. The highly contagious airborne disease was blamed for the Potato Famine that struck Ireland in the 19th century and now it’s been found on tomatoes in Onondaga County.
Baldwinsville (WSYR-TV) - Late blight has been found in Central New York.

The highly contagious airborne disease was blamed for the Potato Famine that struck Ireland in the 19th century and now it’s been found on tomatoes in Onondaga County.

The blight sprouted a few weeks ago on tomatoes at Reeves Farm in Baldwinsville, but they say quick action by the staff stemmed the damage and the spread.

“We got on top of it right away with some fungicides that are very effective and managed to sort of stop it in its tracks,” said Brian Reeves.

In 2009, late blight wiped out about a quarter of Reeves’ organic tomato plants. The organic crop was particularly vulnerable because Reeves could not use fungicides to combat the blight.

The condition can be observed when lesions approximately the size of a quarter start to appear on the tomatoes about three to five days after they become infected.

Wind and rain can blow the spores several miles, leading to infections in plants in surrounding areas.

In recent years, farms have focused on preventing blight. At Reeves Farm, they keep tomatoes up on stakes to keep them clear of the moist conditions that can lead to disease. They also use drip irrigation, which waters just the roots so the plants don’t get wet.

Reeves believes the hot, dry weather that has characterized the summer of 2012 helped curb the damage from blight too. “I think the lack of rainfall until lately has helped, though lately we had rain and cool mornings with heavy dews…that’s moisture…you need to be on the lookout,” Reeves said.

Experts say people who have their own gardens should also keep an eye out for signs of blight.

An online tracker for blight can be found at USAblight.

Anyone who finds blight should bring a sample in a sealed bag to their local branch of the Cornell Cooperative Extension.


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