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Late blight destroying crops throughout region

Most gardening aficionados are well versed in how a plant disease known as late blight can devastate crops - most notably tomato and potato plants.

This summer, however, has been near catastrophic for local growers as it was in the 1850's when the same blight caused the Irish potato famine.

Late blight is a plant disease that attacks both potatoes and tomatoes. It is caused by a fungal pathogen that survives from one season to the next in infected tubers and the disease favors wet weather. This summer, however, has been near catastrophic for local growers as it was in the 1850's when the same blight caused the Irish potato famine.

The disease this year was carried north on the east coast and west to Ohio on plants that were shipped to large box stores from a warehouse in the south.

William and Sandra Murphy of Willsboro were especially hard hit. They have a hobby-sized green house and they start all of their plants from seed, using soil that they purchase from Griffin's Greenhouse. The Murphy's planted nearly 200 plants; to date they have lost 175 plants, with the disease now beginning to show itself on hanging baskets and cherry tomatoes. Their potatoes also got the disease, but by cutting back the leaves and consuming the potatoes when they are picked, the potato crop should be edible. The disease is very fast moving and within 48 hours of first noticing the disease, their crop was lost. It is especially sad as Murphy's give their plants to friends, who then "pay" them in dog food, or donations to the local SPCA.

Christine and Ed Coats, whose garden is located in Schuyler Falls, also have experienced the late blight first hand. Last year Christine learned how to can tomatoes and was excited to stock her larder again this year. In anticipation of that, they planted 50 tomato plants and have lost at least half of them. They also have potato plants that are beginning to show the blight, so they are prepared to pick and eat them before they are completely destroyed.

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