Crop protection and cybersecurity

by John Herlihy, Virginia Tech

Plants feed us. Without them we’re goners. Through thousands of years of genetic modification by selective breeding, humans have developed the crops that keep us alive. We have large kernels of grains, plump fruits and nutritious, toxin-free vegetables. These forms would never be found in nature, but were bred by people to keep us healthy and happy.

Unfortunately, microbes find our wonderfully productive food plants just as delicious as we do. These plant pathogens cause diseases that have changed world history and still affect us today. Continue reading

New strains of late blight bring potential threat

in Southwest Farm Press

Scientific research of Phytophthora infestans, or late blight, has been an issue of concern ever since the plant disease triggered the Irish potato famine of the 1840s. Plant pathologists say it was the first plant disease for which a microorganism was proved to be the causal agent, leading to the birth of plant pathology as a science.

The fungal-like organism that causes late blight affects both tomatoes and potatoes. Unlike the other 60 Phytophthora species that produce soil-borne, root-rotting diseases, late blight infects foliage, stems, potato tubers and tomato fruits. Lesions can occur on both leaves and stems, and usually occur after periods of wet weather. Continue reading

Study Provides Evidence on Movement of Potato Famine Pathogen

by Mick Kulikowski, NC State University

New North Carolina State University research delves into the movement and evolution of the pathogen that caused the Irish potato famine in the 1840s, which set down roots in the United States before attacking Europe.

To track the evolution of differing strains of Phytophthora infestans, the pathogen responsible for the Irish potato famine and a major cause of late-blight disease on potato and tomato plants around the world, NC State plant pathologists studied 12 key regions on the genomes of 183 pathogen samples – historic and modern – from across the globe. Continue reading

Study Provides More Evidence Irish Potato Famine-Causing Pathogen Originated in South America

In NC State News

by Mick Kulikowski, NC State University

Research from North Carolina State University provides further evidence that the pathogen that caused the Irish potato famine in the 1840s likely originated in the Andes region of South America.

Using a robust data set, NC State plant pathologist Jean Ristaino and colleagues Mike Martin from the University of California, Berkeley and Tom Gilbert from the University of Copenhagen used whole genome DNA samples to study various strains of Phytophthora infestans, the pathogen responsible for the Irish potato famine and a major cause of late-blight disease on potato and tomato plants around the world.

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Virginia potato growers get results from potato disease advisory

In the mid 1840s, about one million Irish died from starvation when late blight devastated their potato crop. In the past several years, late blight has affected potato farmers in Virginia, resulting in total loss in several large potato fields. However, the Virginia Potato Disease Advisory has helped potato farmers prepare for late blight and other potato diseases.

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Experts trace roots of potato disease to Mexico

In Southeast Farm Press

By Brad Buck, University of Florida

The disease called late blight killed most of Ireland’s potatoes during its infamous 1840 famine. Today, it still costs Florida tomato farmers far more than potato farmers, resulting in millions of dollars each year in lost yield, unmarketable crop and control.

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Late Blight Webinar on January 14

Join eOrganic on January 14th for a webinar on Late Blight of Tomato and Potato: Recent Occurrences and Management Experiences, presented by Meg McGrath of Cornell University. The webinar takes place at 2PM Eastern Time (1PM Central, 12PM Mountain, 11AM Pacific Time). The webinar is free and open to the public, and advanced registration is required. Attendees will be able to type in questions for the speaker. A live chat session will follow the webinar.

Register now at

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Late blight hits early this year, say experts

Media contact: Dr. Kelly Ivors, associate professor of plant pathology and North Carolina Cooperative Extension specialist, North Carolina State University, 828-684-3562 or

Late blight, a plant disease that can kill tomato plants, has been found on North Carolina tomatoes earlier in the growing season this year than usual, according to a Cooperative Extension plant pathologist at North Carolina State University.

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