Protect your Tomatoes from Blight

Tomatoes, a popular and enduring garden staple across the United States, are susceptible to a number of different diseases during the growing season. Care must be taken to prevent blight and other problems from affecting your tomato plants. If they do get infected, stopping the problem – specifically blight – becomes more important than any individual plants.

Early Blight
This fungal infection targets the foliage, fruits and stems of the tomato. It is caused by the Alternaria solani fungus. Symptoms include dark spots with concentric rings. The blight spreads from the older leaves and they may turn yellow and die. The fungus that causes early blight is soil borne and in addition to removing and disposing of all your tomato plants, care must be taken with what they have touched. Anything an infected plant has come in contact with will likely be contaminated, as well, and need to be destroyed. This fungus can remain in the ground through the winter and affect plants the following year. If you contract early blight, resistant strains or rotating your crops should be used during the next season.

Late Blight

This blight is a fungal infection that affects both tomato and potato plants. Generally, this disease, caused by Phythophthora infestans, develops if the weather remains cool and damp. If your tomato plants get this infection, the leaves develop lesions, appearing as asymmetrical gray spots. A white mold grows around these spots and the fruit will get dark areas that will grow to cover large areas of the tomato. This fungus can be spread by wind or rain and it is important to space your tomato plants far enough apart to avoid the fungus spreading. Overhead watering of tomato plants should be avoided, especially in the evening.  If your tomatoes do develop late blight, destroying them is the only way to prevent the spread of the fungus. Since it is not soil borne, tomatoes can be planted in the same place during the next season.
Southern Blight

Our final infection is caused by the Scierotium rolfsii fungus.  The first symptoms of this infection will be the drooping or wilting of the leaves of the tomato plant. A dry brownish rot will begin to grow on the plant, near the roots, and will be followed by a white fungal growth and lesions forming on the branches. Once it has gotten this far, tomato plants will wither and die. This fungal infection is also soil-borne and can remain dormant in your garden for years. Destroying the affected plants is only the first step. Rotating fungal resistant crops into their place for a few years will give the fungus time to die out before affecting another crop.
 
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