A most unwelcome visitor has come to settle down among us since my early July blog: the nasty disease that cause the Irish Potato Famine called Late Blight of Potatoe and Tomatoes (phytopthora infestans) showed up in our potatoes and tomato greenhouses. The early arrival of this disease is not only complicating life in our little world but wreaking untold damage to farmers in New England as well as New York State. Late blight will not survive freezing conditions so it works its way north on weather systems coming up from the south and makes its ususal appearance here in Late September or October. This year, it was introduced on tomato plants for retail sales that the big box stores brought up from down south. This disease is highly contagious and spreads in the wind once it sporolates. The box stores sold the plants region wide, gardeners took them home and innoculated the region. Add to the “perfect storm” that the weather has been perfect for the growing and spreading the disease (lots of cool damp evenings in the last month and Voila: instant epidemic.)
For us it is not the end of the world, we have a few more tricks in the bag (as well as different food sources) than did the Irish back in 1847, but it is causing some economic hardship and stress nonetheless. We quickly had it positively identified by our state plant pathologist at the University of New Hampshire and we immediately embarked upon a program of pruning and disposing of the badly infested plant material, and embarked upon the University Extension service recommended program for spraying fungicides. The prognosis is not great because the only real way to make the disease abate is to freeze it out, but we definitely have slowed the march of the disease down in hopes of salvaging a high percentage of what looked to be a great crop of both potatoes and tomatoes. We are living day to day, hoping for dry hot sunny weather to help us curb its spread. I hope I can tell you by the time I write the next blog that our efforts were not in vain.
Instead of talking about the ramifications of the global economy as I did in the blog 20 days ago, we are now having the dubious honor of being victmized by it.
If you are to believe the weather models for global warming, then this weather is certain confimation that global warming is here. The weather pattern this year has been similar to the past two and fits the models perfectly for the northeast: cooler and damper. All which has been great for he lettuce and greens, but not so hot fot the strawberries, corn and vine crops. We started picking our first strawberries back June 7, and I bet we havent had two full days of sunshine since we started. We havent gotten all the rain that many of my farmer friends in New England have experienced. As a matter of fact, despite the cloud cover, we were dry enough so that we drip irrigated our peppers,tomatoes and vine crops last week. But in the last two days our moisture issues have been addressed with 2.5″ of rain and more in the forecast. Hmmmm….not so good with the fourth of July coming and the last half of the strawberry season in full swing. The good news is that the outside crew are champs in getting the stuff harvested for the stand and bulling through a full afternoon of catch up farming. They are working 12 hours a ady at least 4 days a week. The guys at the stand and at the greenhouses (where we have a plant sale going on) are short handed as well, yet things still look pretty fresh and kept up. A good crew, indeed…
Speaking again of global issues,we got notification and call from our extension crop specialists informing us that the disease Late Blight of Tomatoes and Potatoes (the same one that caused the Irish Potatoe Famine in the mid 1800’s) has shown up in New England 2 months early this year. The damp, sunless, weather is perfect for spreading it and it usually works its way northward on weather systems from the south in a normal year. By the time it gets here in late September the growing season is well over, and harvest is already underway. But this year it seems many of the box stores in New England that carry garden starters have been buying their tomatoes from southern growers, and the NH University Extension pathologist has, as of yesterday, identified garden tomatoe plants in 4 different box retailers who had plants covered with late blight that they were selling to home gardeners. Despite her request that they pull pull them from the shelves, they would not. (She has no legal powers to make them) By not doing so they are going to sell diseased plants out into the communities and help spread the disease around. As if the weather was not enough of a problem. So the commercial growers, organic and conventional, can look towards a summer of spraying their tomatoes and potatoes more than ever, all while hoping the weather improves and the disease doesnt show up in their fields. Farmers trying to figure out reprocussions of global warming and a global economy.