Fungi and squash bugs and borers, oh my!

It’s official: the pests have found our garden.

1. Fungi
I’ve written already about the swift attack of tomato blight. Here’s a little background on the disease:

Late blight of potato and tomato caused by Phytophthora infestans is a devastating disease worldwide and led to the Irish potato famine in 1845. Under favorable weather conditions, tomato and potato crops can be destroyed within days. Yield losses caused by late blight and the cost of control measures have been estimated to exceed 6.7 billion dollars annually and the disease is a major threat to food security worldwide. -USDA

In previous years, I think early blight has been the culprit that killed my plants. This year, though, it’s late blight -evidenced by tell-tale brown spots on the fruits themselves. The website is a wonderful resource, even showing locations where blight has attacked in the last 7 days!

Within the course of a week, the plants are almost wiped out. I’ve worked for hours trying to remove diseased foliage, but that’s pretty much all of them. Now, with straw underneath, many diseased parts removed, and soaked with Serenade, I’m hoping they’ll make a comeback…but not holding my breath.

Tomato blight progression

2. Squash bugs and borers
Well, we’ve never had any problems with cucurbits before, so I’m learning this one as I go along (with help from this Carolina Farm Stewards publication). Based on what I saw yesterday, I think we might have both squash bugs and squash vine borers at work in the zucchini patch.

I know there are squash bugs, because I caught them in the act. They look like smaller versions of the invasive brown stink bugs, and cause damage galore!

Adults and nymphs of squash bugs damage plants by sucking plant juices from the leaves. Further, they inject a toxin that causes the plants to wilt, blacken, and die back. – National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service

Evidently I’m supposed to find them and “squash” them (what a coincidence!)

The reason I suspect borers, as well, is that one of our zucchini plants was bored into at the root and totally uprooted from the soil. I had to toss it. How sad! I did note a blob of sawdust-like matter, which may have been frass – eww!

The burrowing larvae destroy the internal vascular tissue and cause the whole plant or the invaded runner to wilt and die. Feeding may continue for four to six weeks. A sticky gob of excrement (frass)—which resembles wet sawdust—typically marks the entrance site. If a vine dies before the borer has completed its larval cycle, the larva can migrate to a neighboring plant and resume feeding there. – National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service

Sounds like I’d better look into controls – there are neighboring plants, and the borers may be looking to move in next door.


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