Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Mourning tomatoes

Last Friday we started picking cherry tomatoes. They are always the earliest, and always provide a glimpse of what is to come.
On Sunday night Chris and I pulled out the Compendium on tomato diseases, we were concerned about some yellowing on the lower leaves, we figured early blight...but wanted to be sure.
On Monday morning I went for early morning walk with my sister-in-law......I wanted to inspect the tomatoes more closely, there it was, as sure as could be the tell tale signs of late blight.
Yes, the blackened lesions around the stem, the gray spots on the leaves. Monday afternoon Chuck Bornt our extension agent confirmed it as late blight. We spoke with him yesterday and he has confirmed seven more cases in our area. Two days later some plants were pretty devastated, while others were still green.
In this picture below you can see the area/variety that was the most affected, brown amidst some green. We are in the process of pulling all of the heavily affected plants, saving the green ones. A chemical salesman came to the farm today, the first we have ever met. He came to bring us the Certified Organic Copper that we will be spraying on the still green plants and on our second planting which is still looking green.
We have very mixed feelings about copper, about spraying in general, we tend to be Luddites in this area, we don't tend to even spray the organic sprays. But the dilemma is that we have put a lot of work into these plants, they are among the earliest seeded in the green house, they are then transplanted into larger cell trays, they are then transplanted onto black plastic outside, they are then trellised each week to keep them from falling over. Hours and hours of labor. And trying to save them will be hours and hours more, is it worth it??? Of course it is if we get tomatoes.
There is no guarantee that pulling and spraying will even work, late blight is a persistent disease under the right conditions. It destroyed the Irish Potato Crop in the mid 1800's causing the Potato Famine.
This has been the perfect season for late blight. Wet and cold. And even now though the sun is shining, the nights were cold leaving a heavy dew...more moisture providing perfect breeding grounds for the late blight spores to spread.
Forward we move, we spent the first hours of realization feeling sick to our stomachs, the next morning we accepted complete loss, by the next afternoon we felt we should be proactive and try to at least save the second planting. So in some sick way things are looking up. Other crops look superb, the garlic is large and white and abundant, the purple carrots we will be harvesting in the next months are gorgeous and beans are sweet and crisp...time will tell for the tomatoes...we will keep you updated.


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  2. It sounds like you made the difficult, but right choice, let's hope it works out!