UF researcher's finding could help farmers stop potato, tomato disease

Published: Thursday, June 12, 2014 at 02:38 PM.

The pathogen also moved from other related species to the potato late in the evolutionary history of potatoes, she said, perhaps one reason potatoes are so susceptible to the disease and why finding a breeding-based solution to the disease has been so difficult.

The pathogen costs $6 billion a year globally between direct crop damage and spraying, she said. In Florida, it damages tomatoes far more than potatoes.

Florida farmers lose millions each year due to late blight, said Gene McAvoy, Hendry County Extension director, who has monitored late blight in Southwest Florida for years.

A late-blight pandemic in 2009 made the pathogen a household term in much of the eastern U.S. It made its way to the Northeast via tomatoes in big-box retailers. After planting the tomatoes, many home gardeners and organic producers lost most, if not all, of their crop, Goss said.

“Just when we think we’re on top of it, a new strain shows up,” she said. “New strains have repeatedly appeared in the U.S. that are more aggressive or resistant to fungicides. This pathogen just keeps coming.”

Goss wrote the paper, published online Monday by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, with scientists from eight other university and government agencies.



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