Late blight, which caused the Irish Potato Famine of the 1840s and 1850s, is killing potato and tomato plants in home gardens from Maine to Ohio and threatening commercial and organic farms, U.S. plant scientists said on Friday.
“Late blight has never occurred this early and this widespread in the United States,” said Meg McGrath, a plant pathologist at Cornell University’s extension center in Riverhead, New York.
The disease, known officially as Phytophthora infestans, causes large mold-ringed olive-green or brown spots on plant leaves, blackened stems, and can quickly wipe out weeks of tender care in a home garden.
McGrath said in her 21 years of research, she has only seen five outbreaks in the United States. The destructive disease can spread rapidly in cooler, moist weather, infecting an entire field within days.
Fortunately, unlike the 19th Century Irish we’re not even remotely reliant on one staple for our food source; doubly fortunately, the Great Hops Crisis of 2008 has passed. Still, the last thing that we need right now is higher food prices in anything. Particularly french fries and pizza.
Yeah, I thought that I would make sure that the problem was made clear to everybody.