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May 17, 2010

Late blight found in Maryland


Late blight


Late blight, the fungus that devastated tomato crops on the East Coast last summer, has been found on tomato plants in Maryland in a St. Mary's County greenhouse.

The University of Maryland's Extension service has sent representatives to gather plant material and determine whether this is the strain of blight that hit Maryland last year, or a more virulent strain that can winter-over. They will also check to see if the blight has spread beyond the greenhouse where the tomato plants were grown from seed.

Jon Traunfeld, head of the Home and Garden Information Center for the Maryland Extension service, said the late blight that hit Maryland last year can only survive on plant material and cannot endure our winter cold. So if gardeners and farmers did a good job of cleaning up their gardens last fall, they should be able to start the season disease-free. Our cold snowy winter, helped, too, he said.

However, if there were potatoes left in the ground over winter, the blight, which infects both tomatoes and potatoes, can survive on them.

Organic gardeners were especially hard hit last year because there is no effective organic fungicide to combat late blight. "Spray copper just doesn't do it," Traunfeld said.

Commercial farms, which used non-organic fungicides, did not suffer as much damage.


Traunfeld also advises gardeners to purchase their tomato plants, and other garden plants, from Maryland farmers in order to support those farmers. 

It is possible that plants imported from southern states, where tomato plants can survive outdoors all winter, may carry infection.

Traunfeld is also advising Maryland gardeners to examine their tomato plants carefully and send photographs of any suspicious plant material -- or send the plant material itself --  to the Home and Garden Information Center. Or call 1-800-342-2507.

You can find photos and videos and more answers about late blight on the Grow It, Eat It website.


Posted by Susan Reimer at 12:15 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Garden diseases


So, where did the St. Mary's Blight come from? And how will I know that the Maryland farmer who raised my tomato seedling has not sold me a blighted plant?

UMD extension doesn't know yet....awaiting a report. And check out my tips post, check pictures of the disease, and check your plants!!! -- Susan

Susan, I'm wondering just what "cannot endure our winter cold" means anymore. This was a bad one, especially considering the winters before 2009 had been so mild. But I had a Stevia rebaudiana (Sweet Leaf) herb plant survive this winter, unmulched, unattended, and unexpected when I found it starting to leaf out about two months ago. Stevia is supposed to be drop dead tender in our area (I'm in Annapolis), so how did it get to be perennial? Which leads to the question, is it possible that we now have a strain of late blight that is perennial? I understand that there is a world of difference between herbs and virulent fungi, but just saying...

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About Susan Reimer
Susan Reimer has spent 16 years writing about raising kids - among other topics - in her column for The Baltimore Sun. And every time son Joseph or daughter Jessie passed another milestone - driver's license, college, wedding or a move to a new military duty station - she has planted another garden. Now she will be writing about those gardens - and yours - here on Garden Variety.

Susan isn't an expert gardener, but she wasn't an expert mother, either. Both - the kids and the gardens - seem to be doing well in spite of her.

She lives in Annapolis with her husband, Gary Mihoces, who loves to cut his grass but has noticed that there seems to be less of it every time the kids pass another milestone.

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