Weather kind to farmers so far

The weather has been kinder to area farmers this year, with a near normal winter, and a limited number of late snows and frosts.

Juliett Enfield, the Penn State Agriculture Extension educator, said, “I spoke with one apple grower who had some frost damage to blossoms, but most of the blossoms are okay. We don’t have too many fruit growers here, but there are some.”

She spoke of other crops saying, “Basically, there are dairy farmers growing hay who haven’t been able to get into the fields to harvest because everything is wet. We need a few dry days with some wind.”

Heather Wilcox, district manager for the Warren County Conservation District, said, “There was some frost damage to corn at the end of May, but the corn is young and has recovered.”

For several years, local home gardeners have had problems with late blight in tomatoes. The same pathogen was directly responsible for the Irish potato famine in 1845 and 1847, and it can infect weeds such as bittersweet nightshade, as well as other plants in the same botanical family, including petunias, Chinese lantern, and tomatillos.

Enfield said, “Some tomatoes are resistant to late blight, and farmers can use fungicides, although they can be expensive. The spores live in the soil from year to year, and that’s another reason crop rotation is so important.”

Examine your tomato plants daily. You are more likely to save plants in a garden when only a few symptoms are initially observed, the weather conditions are forecasted to be hot with no rain or lengthy dew period, and late blight outbreaks are not nearby.

Further late blight development is slowed by regularly removing affected tissue and applying fungicides. Create a less favorable environment for the pathogen by avoiding wetting the leaves with overhead irrigation, or water mid-morning so the leaves dry quickly. Eliminate weeds from the garden to improve air circulation, as well as remove extra branches.

If the plants are severely infected, be prepared to destroy them. Remove the entire plant and discard in a garbage bag. If a large number of plants need to be destroyed, they can be gathered together and placed under a tarp in the sun to “bake,” preferably on a hot and sunny day when any spores released into the air are less likely to survive. They could also be burned. Once the plant tissue is dead, the pathogen can no longer survive.