ITHACA, N.Y., July 5 (UPI) -- The disease blamed for the Irish potato famine in the 1840s is infecting tomato and potato plants in the eastern United States, agricultural officials said.
A press release from Cornell University, New York state's land grant college, warned home gardeners and commercial farmers that late blight is killing the tomato and potato plants. Meg McGrath, associate professor of plant pathology and plant-microbe biology said "late blight has never occurred this early and this widespread in the U.S."
Another blight, basil downy mildew, is also affecting plants in the Northeast.
McGrath said an early symptom is brown spots on stems. As the spots enlarge, white fungal growth develops until a soft rot collapses the stem.
Since the spores are carried on the wind, McGrath said gardeners must act quickly to make sure their plants are not the source of blight spreading to commercial farms. She recommended gardeners spray regularly with fungicides and destroy plants with severe blight.