A plant disease that destroys tomato and potato plants has been found in Connecticut and four other northeastern states.
‘Late blight’ is caused by a fungus-like organism that attacks plant tissues. It’s not uncommon, but this year it’s very widespread. The disease started in seedlings that were grown in southern states and sold in big box stores. Diseased plants have dark shiny black lesions on the stems or quarter-sized water soaked-areas on the leaves. Plant Pathologist Sharon Douglas, of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station said ‘Late blight’ is highly contagious and can spread from home gardens to commercial fields. Rain helps spread it from one plant to another.
“The pathogen can infect the tissues very, very quickly. So you can go out there and see some spots on a few isolated leaves one day after a rainfall. Two or three days later you can see the entire plant start to collapse.”
Douglas says late blight is not dangerous to people. She recommends home gardeners throw diseased plants in the trash, but not in a compost pile, where it could spread.