ARCHIVE

Tomato Disappointment: A Farmer’s Perspective on Late Blight in the Northeast

I have an entire cookbook devoted to tomatoes.  Admittedly, I have a lot of cookbooks, but tomatoes are the only vegetable in my kitchen with an entire cookbook singing their praises.  But then, they are tomatoes, the crown of the summer growing season and the crop that can make or break a small vegetable farm.  Every strange vegetable from kohlrabi to escarole has its devoted fans, but tomatoes are as much of an American summer institution as baseball and 4th of July fireworks. Tomatoes are the crop that everyone is waiting for.

For those of us living in the Northeast this year, if could be a long wait.  Earlier this summer, tomato transplants sold in Lowes, Walmart, and Home Depot carried the spores of Phytophthora infestans (literally “plant destroyer” in Latin) into the Northeast, where a cool, wet summer provided ideal conditions for an epidemic.  Phytophthora infestans, more commonly referred to as late blight, is an incredibly contagious plant disease, which can knock out entire fields of tomatoes and potatoes in a matter of days.  Late blight was the cause of the infamous Irish Potato Famine of the nineteenth century—this is a plant disease which means business. Read more