Bonnie Plants Brings Northeastern Late Blight into Focus and Sets the Record Straight

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Subsequent to the first confirmed Late Blight cases in the Northeast, news was released of incidence of Late Blight at retail. At that time, Bonnie Plants proactively, voluntarily and responsibly removed all tomato plants (whether visibly infected or not) from retail outlets in areas where this disease had been reported. This was done as a precautionary and preventative measure, since any tomato plant, from any grower can be a host for Late Blight. Bonnie pulled over 1 million dollars worth of plants from retail locations in their concerted effort to responsibly contain and curtail the potential spread of this disease.

Late Blight on Tomato Plant

On Long Island, NY, symptoms of late blight were confirmed on June 23 in a commercial field of potatoes and on June 24 on tomatoes in a near-by home garden. Appearance of symptoms in the garden suggested they were the result of inoculum spread from the commercial field. It also appeared that spread occurred in the commercial field.

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Recently, incidence of Late Blight infestation in the Northeast has been reported in the press. Some of the reports have included inaccurate information. In order to present the facts concerning the occurrence of Late Blight in the Northeast and educate consumers on the symptoms and remedies pertinent to the disease, Bonnie Plants has submitted the following information:

One of the first written reports of Late Blight in the Northeast was issued on July 1, 2009 by Margaret Tuttle McGrath, Associate Professor, Plant Pathology, Cornell University.

Ms. McGrath stated, "On Long Island, NY, symptoms of late blight were confirmed on June 23 in a commercial field of potatoes and on June 24 on tomatoes in a near-by home garden. Appearance of symptoms in the garden suggested they were the result of inoculum spread from the commercial field. It also appeared that spread occurred in the commercial field." Based on these observations late blight likely had been on Long Island for about two weeks. Source: http://www.growingproduce.com/news/avg/?storyid=2111

1. Subsequent to the first confirmed Late Blight cases, news was released of incidence of Late Blight at retail. At that time, Bonnie Plants proactively, voluntarily and responsibly removed all tomato plants (whether visibly infected or not) from retail outlets in areas where this disease had been reported. This was done as a precautionary and preventative measure, since any tomato plant, from any grower can be a host for Late Blight. Bonnie pulled over 1 million dollars worth of plants from retail locations in their concerted effort to responsibly contain and curtail the potential spread of this disease.

2. As mentioned, the first reports of confirmed Late Blight in the Northeast were on June 23, 2009. Until Tuesday, July 7, 2009, no Late Blight disease had been detected by government inspectors or by Bonnie growers in any of Bonnie's 61 growing facilities throughout the U.S. However, on July 7, 2009, 5 tomato plants in Bonnie's New Berlin, NY greenhouse facility tested positive for the disease. Bonnie took the necessary, appropriate steps to rid this facility of the disease. The disease is not believed to have originated in Bonnie's facility, as the disease was already present in the Northeast prior to the discovery of 5 confirmed Late Blight cases in New Berlin on the 7th of July.

3. It should also be noted that at the time the disease outbreak was discovered at retail, Bonnie Plants not only removed all plants, visibly infected or not, from retail locations, they requested that their New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia facilities be inspected for signs of the disease. New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia facilities were inspected and were found to be disease free.

4. Bonnie did not ship any tomato plants to the Northeast from the state of Georgia.

5. Although Bonnie Plants cannot justifiably be targeted as the source for the recent Northeastern occurrence of Late Blight, Bonnie is currently and willingly committed to proactively, aggressively and responsibly continue to monitor all greenhouses nationwide and take any/all necessary steps to curtail and contain the potential spread of this or any other disease.

"Identifying and reducing the sources of inoculums of this disease is key," says Dennis Thomas, General Manager of Bonnie Plants.

Mr. Thomas further evidences that there must be three factors present for Late Blight to occur;

1. There must be the presence of a susceptible host (ANY tomato/potato/petunia plants)

2. There must be a disease causing organism

3. There must be the right environmental/weather conditions (cool/rainy/wet/lack of sunshine)

"Bonnie produces millions of tomato plants, any of which could become host to Late Blight, however, if the pathogen was not present, or the weather conditions were sunny and dry, any tomato plant from any grower, could not host this disease. In fact, the disease would not have occurred", Thomas contends.

"Further, Thomas says, Late Blight has been exacerbated in the Northeast because of heavy rainfall and cool temperatures last month, which the National Weather Service said was the eighth-wettest and 19th-coolest June on record".

Thomas encourages home gardeners to be aware of the early symptoms of Late Blight in order to detect the disease and destroy it.

One of the most visible early symptoms of the disease is brown spots (lesions) on stems. They begin small and firm, and then quickly enlarge, with white fungal growth developing under moist conditions that leads to a soft rot collapsing the stem.

Classic symptoms are large (at least nickel-sized) olive-green to brown spots on leaves with slightly fuzzy white fungal growth on the underside when conditions have been humid (early morning or after rain). Sometimes the border of the spot is yellow or has a water-soaked appearance. Spots begin tiny, irregularly shaped and brown. Firm, brown spots develop on tomato fruit.

Bonnie further recommends that home gardeners engage the following precautions to curtail and stop the potential spread of Late Blight:

  • Examine their tomato, petunia and potato plants thoroughly at least once a week for signs of Late Blight; if you are unsure as to the whether or not your plant is infected with Late Blight, contact your local Extension Agent.
  • Spray fungicides preventively and regularly for insects and fungi Daconil works well and can be found in garden centers everywhere. The active ingredient in Daconil is Chlorothanonil which is proven effective against most fungi, including the fungal pathogen causing Late Blight.
  • Be prepared to destroy infected plants by placing them in a plastic bag, sealing, and disposing of, when Late Blight is present.

"Late Blight is not a new or uncommon disease, it has been around for hundreds of years. At present the best cure is hot, dry weather and the best defense is heightened awareness of symptoms and remedies to curtail and contain the potential spread of the disease", says Thomas.

About Bonnie Plants
Bonnie Plants, in existence for 91 years, is the largest supplier of tomato plants in North America. Bonnie operates 61 growing stations in 38 states, trucking varieties to local retail outlets. For more information on Bonnie Plants please visit http://www.bonnieplants.com.

Media Inquiries:
Joan Casanova
Green Earth Media Group
610 268 2811
joan (at) greenearthmediagroup (dot) com

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