If you're growing tomatoes or potatoes, especially if you've recently planted seedlings, be on the lookout for a nasty disease that's been detected on Long Island and elsewhere in the northeast.
Late blight disease is a fungus that causes white-mold encircled gray spots on leaves and stems that causes the plant to blacken, wilt and die. It's the same disease that caused the Irish Potato Famine in the 1840s, and it has never occurred this early or widespread in the United States.
Stem lesions on a tomato plant in Suffolk County.
Fungi thrive in damp environments, so the abundant rainfall over the past month has created a perfect breeding ground for the disease. I've got tons of mushrooms all over the garden. Same principle, only blight can spread around and kill your plants.
Bonnie Plants, headquartered in Alabama, has growing stations in 61 locations nationwide. The fungus has been detected in Bonnie Plants stock in local big box stores, though that's not to say it won't be found in plants from other growers. I haven't heard word of any official recalls on Long Island.
Brown stem lesions visible on plants in the center of the shelf.
Compare these photos to your plants and pull up any that show symptoms. Then bag them up tightly and put them in the trash. Don't compost them. And, obviously, don't purchase any symptomatic plants.
Closeup of stem lesions.
Leaf symptoms of late blight disease.
A reader snapped the above photos of Bonnie Plants tomatoes at an area retailer. Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Lowes, Sears and K-Marts stock Bonnie Plants vegetables.
Information about late blight disease from Cornell University.
Tune in to Rutgers University's webinar on Thursday, July 2, from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. for a live chat with vegetable specialists from Cornell University and Rutgers University, who will provide more details about the outbreak, address concerns and answer your questions about late blight and other tomato diseases.
To access the webinar, Click this link (it will begin working at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday), type your name in the box, click login button and follow the on-screen directions.
For more information on the webinar, contact Steven Komar, Sussex County Agricultural Agent, New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 973-948-3040.