Thursday, 30 July 2009

Tomato Blight, Our Warming Climate and Who Cares?

So far no field tomatoes from Quebec have showed up in Montreal stores or at the Jean Talon Market. Usually it’s August before the crop comes in, and this year it may be even later because of the cool weather and rain. But, if the farm panel on CBC’s Radio Noon show is right, we may escape the blight that is ravaging tomato crops in the US North East.

The New York Times had a big story on Wednesday, about the damage done by the blight, a fungus related to the one that caused the Potato Famine in Ireland 180 years ago. Organic farmers, whose arsenal of defence is limited, are particularly hard hit, it seems. Aside from tearing up and burning or deeply burying affected plants so the blight though, so it must re-applied after every rain at a cost of about $1,000 a shot, according to one farmer.

That explains something a neighbor told me Tuesday. A friend of hers on Long Island reported that no local tomatoes were in the markets there, but that tomatoes from Quebec were. They must be hothouse ones—I’ve written before about the excellent Savoura ones we get now all winter long—which is more than a little strange for this time of year.

All this comes out at a time whe climate scientists from around the world are meeting in Montreal for a conference called Our Warming Climate. There has been very little press coverage even though meteorologists, arctic specialists, oceanographers and many other academics have been discussing a number of important issues. Don't know if this is a result of the extremely erudite quality of the papers presented, or because nobody is very interested. If it's the latter, we're in trouble.


Martin Langeland said...

Global warming is not future tense. Thanks, I read, to El Nino we are having heat and humidity more common to the Illinois of my youth than to recent PNW "summers". The quotes are because they used to be confused with March except for August 10th at 3:58 pm.

lagatta à montréal said...

Pity that there was so little press coverage - I missed the conference entirely, and in late July would have had time to volunteer and thus have the opportunity to catch up on some of the latest research. Not as if we were drowning in news in the past while!

No field tomatoes yet. I bought a very small basket of organic tomatoes at the market (non-organic were just as expensive) but they were still hothouse. Usually there are a few field tomatoes by now.

patàmodeler said...

I am not a tomato fan, but I can't wait for the tomato season to arrive with its delicious fruits. I guess I'll keep waiting.

Weird... This year, I end up missing everything I usually dislike: hot and sticky weather in July, too many tomatoes, and... what else?

Well, I guess "the times they are a-changing".

Yaacov said...

I too am disturbed there isn't more talk about late blight. I've been collecting reports of it at

Do you think importing tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables from around the world contributes to spreading plant diseases and pests?