Goodbye Tomatoes? Widespread Fungus Killing Off Crops

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Those of us who live in the Northeast or Mid-Atlantic need to enjoy our tomatoes while we can. A fungus called late blight—a strain of which caused the Irish potato famine—is rapidly destroying loads of crops. You may want to check the tomatoes you’re growing in your yard…

According to an article we just read in The New York Times, small outbreaks of late blight aren’t uncommon this time of year, but the heavy June rains have made the fungus exceptionally aggressive. Organic farmers who can’t use heavy pesticides to help stop it have had to destroy large sections of their crops.

Chef Dan Barber said that half the year’s tomato plants at Stone Barns in upstate New York have been lost. We’ve been overjoyed to get good New Jersey tomatoes earlier than normal this year, but now we’re realizing that there might not be another wave coming in August and September. Or, at least, we’ll be paying much more for them.

Read the article: Outbreak of Fungus Threatens Tomato Crop, from The New York Times

Apparently, the outbreak spread from plants sold at big box retailers across the country. Many of those plants ended up in backyards and container gardens, so you should be on the lookout if you’re growing your own.

The article reads: “Authorities recommend that home gardeners inspect their tomato plants for late blight signs, which include white, powdery spores; large olive green or brown spots on leaves; and brown or open lesions on the stems. Gardeners who find an affected plant should pull it, seal it in a plastic bag and throw it away, not compost it.”

Any gardeners had experience with late blight? Have you seen prices of tomatoes going up in your area?

(Image: Flickr member photofarmer, licensed for use under Creative Commons)