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Northeastern Tomato Blight Caused by Home Gardening

A fast-spreading fungus has ravaged tomato crops across the Northeast and mid-Atlantic, wiping out this year's crop and causing the price of heirloom tomatoes to skyrocket by 20 percent. But the cause of the pandemic is something that's much more innocent than you might think.

In a recent New York Times column, renowned farm-to-table chef Dan Barber discusses the aggressive disease, known as late blight, that has wiped out 70 percent of this year's heirloom tomato crop. He argues that there are three contributing factors that caused the intense blight. First, a rainy Summer, moderate temperatures, and lots of humidity; second, infected tomato starter plants sold to home growers; and third, the explosion of home gardeners.Ironically, the very community that's engaged in eating locally has set the stage for one of the worst heirloom tomato harvests in history. Barber argues that, despite what Slow Food believers might advocate, future farming must involve nonheirloom plant varieties bred to resist diseases.

The blight isn't limited to new home gardeners; even seasoned pro Martha Stewart has lamented that she lost 70 percent of the 50 different tomato varieties in her garden this year. Have you fallen victim to this year's tomato travesty? What do you think of Barber's argument?

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