At the same time, we got some news that we've been hoping we would not hear for a while. Farms in Weston, Wayland, and Natick found late blight on their tomatoes this week. Late blight is the oomycete (a fungus-like organism) that caused the Irish potato famine, and also the collapse of many growers' tomato crops in 2009 (including ours). Back in 2009, it had been raining for three weeks and continued to rain, off and on, through July. This late blight organism loves rain and cool temperatures. It can spread in the rain over several miles if conditions are right, but it dessicates quickly in the sunny, dry, hot weather like we've been having this year. That's the good news.
The other good news is that this year we are prepared to do everything we can to protect the tomatoes organically. We planted all of our tomatoes with a row of other crops between them so that we can drive between the rows with our boom sprayer, using a combination of organically approved materials to protect the tomatoes once a week. The spray row, along with the two-foot spacing we plant tomatoes on within the row, also helps provide better air flow for the crop so that it can dry out after a heavy dew -- also important in disease prevention. The materials that we are able to spray organically won't totally protect against late blight, particularly in situations of very heavy disease pressure, so every little bit of what are called 'cultural controls' helps too. We fertilized carefully with compost and micronutrients in the spring so that the crop would be as healthy as possible, and continue to fertilize weekly through the drip irrigation lines as the tomatoes begin to flower and set fruit. So, unlike in 2009, we were at least prepared to get the news of late blight in the area. But it's very early, and all we can do from here on out is what farmer Dan Kaplan calls some really "heavy duty praying." We'll keep you posted.
|Last year's beauties|
We set traps to monitor for the SWD earlier in the summer, and we'll be checking them on a regular basis starting now. As organic growers, as with late blight, we have pretty limited options for controlling the SWD, and they involve the sprayer and the tractor. It's sounding like we're going to need to find a designated tractor for all this spraying. Oh, and a designated farmer.
In the meantime, we'll keep on planting that broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage for the fall -- Dan's water wheel is working beautifully, which is a good thing, since there's no rain on the horizon (knock wood). We'll keep weeding away (more on that next week) and start harvesting potatoes. We hope you enjoy the harvest.
Amanda, for the farm crew