Of course: the year I decide to go all out and plant 60 tomatoes in the new vegetable garden, late blight, the deadly fungus-like disease that caused the Irish Potato Famine, has surfaced in New England. Or, more pointedly, in my garden. No sooner did I receive an email bulletin from the Massachusets Pest Outreach Project, that I noticed that one of my plants was starting to discolor. Sure enough: what looked mightily like the characteristic stem lesions of late blight had already appeared. According to the bulletin, the blight was brought into the state by infected plants sold under the Bonnie Plants label at various box stores and nurseries, and has been pumped up over the last decade into an even more virulent form than the one that sent thousands to their graves in the 1840s. The spores of the fungus can be carried for miles in wind and rain, both of which we’ve had a-plenty this spring, and it seems some have floated into my garden, even though I raised all my own plants from seed. I decided to take no chances. I immediately removed the suspicious plant, bagged it, and disposed of it in the trash. (Infected plants should not be put into the compost.) The only remedy for Late Blight is an active spray program using the fungicide chlorothalonil, which is found in the Ortho product Daconil and several other compilations. I’m certainly not thrilled at the prospect of spraying, but I’m even less thrilled at the prospect of 60 dead tomato plants, which is the certain result of doing nothing, so off to the home center I go. Fortunately chlorothalonil is non-systemic that degrades quickly; as the plants have yet even to set fruit, I can still expect a reasonably chemical free harvest later on this year, as long as this bloody incessant rain stops!
For more information on Late Blight, consult the following: