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Late Blight A Threat To Potato, Tomato Crops


Farmers and gardeners are keeping an eye on their potato and tomato crops as a fungal-like disease known as late blight has been discovered in Portage county.

Langlade County Extension Agriculture agent Stephanie Plaster says to date NO late blight has been found there...

".....this disease can kill plants and whole fields in a matter of weeks. It's spread by wind and rain. It really costs the potato farmers and home gardeners a lot of money as it can destroy whole crops...."

While potato farmers are keenly aware of the disease, Plaster says gardeners can lose those tomato plants you so carefully nurture. She says make sure tomato plants are far enough apart to have good air flow. Plaster says there are ways to treat the disease....

"....we recommend staying on a five to seven day fungicide spray schedule. For home gardeners that's using products like copper or clorothalanil as an active ingredient. You can get organic sprays using copper as well for those folks wanting to stay as organic as possible..."

She says if late blight took hold in the central and northern Wisconsin potato crops, it would mean millions of dollars in damage to the economy....

".....it would be nice if you spray your tomatoes. Look for it. If you have late blight, please destroy the plants. Bring a sample to(Langlade County Extension) and I'll  get it diagnosed free of charge. It's a community disease. We want everyone to be leery of that...."

She says farmers have been out spraying. Plaster says it doesn't affect human or animal health and is specific to potatoes, tomatoes and some plants in the eggplant family.

The disease caused the potato famine in Ireland in the 1840's..

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