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Irish famine blight fungus hits Rhode Island crops

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The same virus that caused the potato blight in Ireland in the 1840s that decimated the population and drove thousands to these shores has been found in potato and tomato crops in Rhode Island.

The Providence Journal has reported that the blight has been found in crops in the state and that the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) has warned all growers to be aware of the problem and use fungicides to counter it.

The DEM has also warned growers to be vigilant to spot the telltale signs of the blight – brown spots on leaves and a white fungus growth under leaves after humid weather.

Cornell University professor of plant pathology William Fry told the Journal that this strain of the blight was extremely dangerous because it is resistant and is “causing widespread devastation" among crops in North America.

Tomato plants have been removed from shops in New York and New England and growers have to be vigilant because blight plants, if untreated, can produce sports that can be carried in the wind.

Copper fungicides are used to fight the blight and are only effective in the early stages, and organic growers face a real dilemma in fighting the blight.

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