Tomato Blight: How to Identify and Treat Late Blight in Tomatoes
Tomato blight, in its different forms, is a disease that attacks a plant’s leaves, stems, and even fruit.
Late blight (one form of tomato blight) is caused by a fungus, Phytophthora infestans, which also affects potatoes. The fungus was responsible for the Irish potato famine of 1845.
It over-winters in infected potato tubers and perennial weeds (such as nightshade.) As the tubers and perennial seeds germinate during a new growing season, the fungus spreads to surrounding plants.
What does late blight look like?
Photo: Cornell University
It affects both leaves and fruit
Leaves develop blue-gray spots which turn brown
Leaves eventually drop
Fruit develops irregular brown, greasy spots which can affect the entire tomato
Spots on both leaves and fruit may develop a white, cottony ring of mold
Late blight can overtake an entire plant quickly (within a week) if untreated
When does late blight affect plants?
It’s most prevalent in mid- to late-season
It often strikes in cool, wet weather
How do you control and treat late blight?
The best control measure is prevention (see below).
Remove and destroy infected leaves (be sure to wash your hands afterwards).
Treat organically with copper spray, which you can purchase at the hardware store or home improvement center. Follow label directions. You can apply until the leaves are dripping, once a week and after each rain.
Once blight is present and progresses, it becomes more resistant to biofungicide and fungicide. Treat it as soon as possible and on a schedule.
Treat organically with a biofungicide like Serenade to lessen symptoms. Follow label instructions. Or apply a fungicide such as chlorothalonil (sold as Fungonil), Mancozeb fungicide, or maneb (also available under trade names) at the first sign of blight, when fruit sets (as a preventative measure) or when conditions indicate a strong potential for it to develop. Follow label directions. Re-apply every 7-10 days or after rain. Other diseases (such as early blight, Septoria leaf spot, and gray leaf spot) can be controlled by these biofungicides and fungicides, so application is multi-purpose.