P.E.I.’s home gardeners encouraged to plant blight-resistant tomatoes
They may be talking tomatoes but they’re really talking big potatoes.
The Department of Agriculture and Forestry is asking gardeners to plant only tomato varieties with a proven resistance to a new strain of late blight. The department says this will help ensure a healthy crop and at the same time protect the province’s $1 billion potato industry.
Some of the outbreaks of late blight in commercial potato crops can be traced to gardens where spores from infected plants were carried by the wind.
Gardeners should choose from several varieties known to be resistant to the late blight strain US-23. Resistant varieties exist in many size categories from large cherry, beefsteak and medium-sized tomatoes
Late blight is a disease caused by an organism that is closely related to algae. It affects potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and even petunias.
The organism produces white fuzz on the underside of leaves that releases millions of spores that float on the air to infect other plants. When the spores land on a susceptible leaf, they germinate and cause brown oily lesions. The spores splash on the ground and infect potato tubers, which become brown and rusty looking with a granular texture.
In addition to growing blight resistant varieties, gardeners can reduce the chance of a blight outbreak by:
- planting only certified seeds
- start tomatoes from seed inside;
- don’t grow potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant close together;
- water the soil, not the leaves;
- allow good air flow and plant in the full sun;
- destroy volunteer plants;
- watch for diseased plants and remove immediately
If a diseased plant is found, Gardeners are to put a plastic bag over the plant, pull it out of the ground, seal the bag, let it break down in the sun and then put it in the garbage.