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Seed-grown plants raised at home are not implicated in the outbreak, but are susceptible to infection. The late blight infestation comes in a season when more homeowners than ever have taken up vegetable gardening as a hedge against rising food costs. And cool, rainy weather has created perfect conditions for the disease.
Rain fell in some region of New Jersey every day of last month except June 1, according to state climatologist David Robinson. With statewide rainfall recorded at 6.61 inches vs. the long-term average of 3.79 inches, it was the sixth wettest June on record. Cloud cover kept temperatures down to an average of 67.7 degrees, making it the 24th coolest June on record. - Valerie Sudol of newjerseynewsroom.com
Commercial farmers in New Jersey are familiar with the disease and are expected to act quickly to prevent its spread, which otherwise would mean the "certain death" of their entire crop. Officials are more concerned about backyard growers who may not recognize late blight and who may fail to take prompt action to remove infected plants. - Valerie Sudol
Tomatoes are the most popular crop in the home vegetable garden. While tomatoes are relatively easy to grow, foliar diseases often occur in the home garden. Early blight and Septoria blight are the two most common foliar diseases of tomato. Early blight produces brown spots (up to 1/2 inch in diameter) on infected leaves. Concentric rings of darker brown often appear in the leaf spots. Septoria blight produces small brown spots (approximately 1/8 inch in diameter) with tan or gray centers and dark edges. Both diseases cause heavily infected leaves to eventually turn brown, die, and fall off. Lower leaves are infected first with the diseases progressing upward during the growing season. Wet spring and early summer weather favors development of early blight and Septoria blight. Defoliation may be severe when favorable weather conditions exist. Early blight and Septoria blight overwinter on plant debris left in the garden. Fungal spores are splashed onto the foliage by raindrops or splashing water. A wet leaf surface is required for the spores to invade the plant tissue.
Home gardeners can help reduce blight problems on their tomatoes with good cultural practices. Fungicides may also be needed.- Richard Jauron, Department of Horticulture, Iowa State University