Late blight caused the Irish potato famine in the 1840s and 1850s.
This disease and its related problems caused massive hunger, starvation and poverty, resulting in mass emigration from the region. This disease is still a concern today.
The fungus which caused the Irish potato famine is still active today. It was identified in Portage County just last week. It can cause serious problems for potato, tomato, eggplants and other solanaceous crops today. Phytophthora infestans (“infests”) is the cause of potato late blight. It is a fast moving, community disease that growers, home gardeners and garden center managers must take seriously and properly manage to ensure a healthy, adequate food supply.
There are many concerns for Wisconsin vegetable growers every year whether farmer or home gardener. Weather, growth problems, pests, water, market demand—but one pest problem, foliar or leaf blight, is especially challenging. This can commonly attack tomatoes, potatoes, carrots and cucumbers. These diseases cause perfectly healthy appearing green plants to break out in brown spots, turn yellow and die prematurely. Many home gardeners run to their local garden center for a remedy. But by the time leaves begin to yellow and the brown spots appear the disease may have progressed to a point where there is no stopping it.
On the farm, vegetable growers face the same threat from foliar blights every year. Potato and vegetable growers in Wisconsin have worked closely with University of Wisconsin researchers for decades, to understand the science behind that makes these blights tick. Through research, we have developed and implemented innovative disease management strategies to both avoid and combat plant disease problems. (more…)
We all want the good guys to win, right? Well, it is even more important in agriculture where there are good guys with wonderful names like assassin bugs and pirate bugs, which regularly seek out, kill and eat the bad guys that are eating our crops. This is how nature keeps the balance between good and bad, and our potato and vegetable growers have learned nature’s tricks; they are masters at manipulating the system in their favor. This concept is called biological control, and it uses a broad range of beneficial species that occur naturally in diverse ecosystems to attack pest species that feed on crops, keeping them at levels which do not harm the crops.
This process of one organism regulating populations of another is found throughout nature from microscopic bacteria to alpha predators, like wolves. If we look with inquisitive eyes, we can see this in action in our very own back yards. In production agriculture, biological control can be seen at a much larger scale. It has become a vital component of the farmer’s toolbox that can be used in tandem with other approaches to keep pest populations below damaging levels. The whole system is called Integrated Pest Management; the goal is to use pesticides only as a last resort when pests increase to damaging levels. (more…)
At Alsum Farms & Produce, our summer weather is finally here and the potatoes are growing fast and are a beautiful thing to see. The reds, whites, and goldens are getting close to row closure and they have started to “hook,” which means they are forming a tuber under the hill. We are seeing marble-sized tubers already and they will be growing fast. Moisture management is critical at this time and we were blessed with a nice rain again this week. The cold wet spring was a problem for the seed pieces, but moisture at this time is a positive as long as we don’t get several inches at one time. We are placing tensiometers in our fields this week to help with monitoring soil moisture. This is one of many ways that we try to make sure we are using best practices to conserve and properly manage our water usage.
Our pest scout position is another valuable tool in our IPM and best practices for potato growing. (more…)