Fungus threatens crops on Long Island

July 7, 2009 3:12:38 PM PDT
There is a warning going out about a disease spreading on Long Island. A fungus has been found on some tomatoes and potatoes.

Officials think this is the same disease that caused a potato famine years ago.

"We raise a lot of plum tomatoes too for sauces people buy them by the bushel," said farmer Bernie May.

But, this year has been unusually rainy and damp creating perfect conditions for a deadly fungus-like disease that could wipe out much of the tomato and potato crop this summer in the northeast.

Meg McGrath, Associate Professor at Cornell University says its an age old disease known as tomato blight, which spreads through spores. Its not toxic or harmful to humans, but its deadly for the crop, including some found in her own garden- and spreads like wildfire.

"What is characteristic for late blight is this white growth on the underside. That is hundreds of spores of the pathogen," she said.

It's not just an issue for small crops but larger ones too. Meg says she's concerned it will pass through the air to a commercial farm across the street.

And consequently the fungus like disease is turning up at the retail level in New York State and all six New England states according to McGrath including chains like Home Depot, Walmart, Lowes and Kmart.

It's not known where it originated this year but to help prepare for a ripe tomato season, McGrath asks all farmers big and small to pay attention to their crops-because when dealing with an airborne fungus- tending to your own garden can make all of the difference in the world.

Web Produced By: Scott Curkin


NEW YORK AND TRI-STATE AREA NEWS

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