Potatoes in Canada

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Researcher asking PEI residents to use LB-resistant tomatoes

February 20, 2015, Charlottetown, PEI – Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada researcher Rick Peters is asking gardeners to save themselves some frustration with their tomatoes this year and at the same time help protect the province’s $1 billion potato industry by planting tomato varieties with a proven resistance to a new strain of late blight.

Peters, a late blight specialist with the Crops and Livestock Research Centre in Charlottetown, says gardeners should choose from several varieties know to be resistant to the late blight strain US-23; resistant varieties exist in many size categories from large cherry tomato (for example Mountain Magic), beefsteak (such as Mountain Merit) and medium-sized (including Defiant).

He also wants gardeners to know what to do if late blight appears in their plots. Peters says in the two years since US-23 has shown up on PEI, he has received more than 200 calls from gardeners looking for advice after losing their tomatoes to late blight.

He says some of the outbreaks of late blight in commercial potato crops can be traced to gardens where spores from infected plants were carried by the wind. Crop losses can be more than $30 million annually in Canada.

In addition to growing blight resistant varieties, Peters says gardeners can reduce the chance of a blight outbreak by:

  • planting only certified seeds
  • start tomatoes from seed inside
  • don’t grow potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant close together
  • water the soil, not the leaves
  • allow good air flow and plant in the full sun
  • destroy volunteer plants
  • watch for diseased plants and remove immediately

If a diseased plant is found, Peters says residents should put a plastic bag over the plant, pull it out of the ground, seal the bag, let it break down in the sun and then put it in the garbage.