Gardeners are reporting a bad year for potato blight. One of the South Undercliff allotment holders told me that it struck earlier this year than usual in July, instead of September. By clearing off the haulm above ground, he hoped to save the tubers, but they would stop growing and give a poor crop.
I walked round and met Sally Savory by her allotment. She had just finished clearing her patch in a raised bed and had carted away the foliage to be burnt. She had lifted her potatoes and found them of reasonable size and condition. “With the wet weather we’ve had, it’s a nationwide problem,” she told me, “but it’s swings and roundabouts – other crops have been good.”
Checking with Nigel Jennings at the Love Lane allotments, I got a similar tale of woe: “It’s a bad year for blight. The spores of the fungus are carried on the rain over a wide area. Those who planted early have reaped the benefits,” he said.
“You get early blight and late blight and they may be separate organisms, either carried on the wind or on the rain drops. Once it is in the soil, the spores can travel down into the potato and ruin the crop. Most people will have taken the tops off by now.”
Tomatoes are a related species and can suffer a similar disease. He has lost a couple out of six outdoor tomato plants. Some varieties may be more susceptible than others. Again, removal of the visibly affected foliage may rescue the plant. His other plants in the greenhouse have enjoyed a a degree of protection, being under cover.
Image Credits: Kenneth Bird .