While hard to believe, the Late Blight pathogen that caused the Irish potato famine in the 1840s and 1850s and caused the starvation deaths and forced migration of hundreds of thousands across Europe, is still a major concern in food production worldwide. The fungus-like organism, Phytophthora infestans, is aggressive and can cause disease that can rapidly destroy whole fields of potatoes and tomatoes. This centuries old threat is still with us and causes major concerns for potato growers in Wisconsin each year!
The pathogen can be spread quickly over whole areas by wind movement of its spores from infected source plants. These are either brought into the state as already infected tomato transplants or seed potatoes or can develop locally from un-harvested tubers or crop waste that survive freezing. Because it can spread so rapidly under cool moist conditions, Late blight is considered a ‘community disease’ that can affect both commercial growers and home gardeners alike. Crop fields must therefore be monitored early to detect symptoms and potential disease sources. Growers ensure that seed is disease-free to prevent the introduction of the pathogen into the fields. They control potato volunteers and nightshade weeds that may be infected in and around production fields. And, by WI state law, growers, homeowners and garden centers are required to destroy all disease sources by May 20th before the start of the growing season. (more…)
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…)
Do you know what caused the Irish potato famine in the 1840s and 1850s?
Did you know these problems caused massive hunger, distress, and resulted in mass emigration from the region for many years?
Did you also know that this disease can still be a concern if not properly managed?
And that the fungus which caused the Irish potato famine is still attacking! It can cause serious problems for potato, tomato, eggplants and other solanaceous crops today. Phytophthora infestans (appropriate name since it “infests”) is the cause of potato late blight; it is a fast moving, community disease, which growers (as well as home gardeners and garden center managers) must take seriously and manage properly to ensure a healthy, adequate food supply. (more…)