Farm NewsLetter 07/10/06

Week of July 10th, 2006

I thought we might get a bit of a respite from watering this week, but the rain that was predicted never really arrived. The brassica family and many of the greens would have liked the rain. However, dry sunny weather is much for tomatoes and potatoes which are at risk of late blight when we have cool wet summer weather. Late blight caused the Great Irish Famine of 1845-1847. Over one million people died and similar numbers emigrated to the rest of Europe and the USA. The famine was compounded by oppressive social and economic conditions, but late blight is undeniably one of the most devastating plant diseases in human history. And it continues to be a significant problem for potato and tomato growers today.

We’re participating in a three-year organic potato study working with 10 other farms and a dozen researchers from OSU to solve some of the problems associated with organic potato production in our climate. We’re studying insect pests, fertility, and the dreaded late blight.

The fungus-like organism that causes late blight is called Phytophthora infestans. It spreads under moist conditions by releasing zoospores or by producing a hyphal outgrowth. Ideal conditions for growth are warm temperatures 65-75 degrees and 75% humidity. The foliage of plants is obviously affected, but tomato fruit and potato tubers can be adversely affected as well. Sporangia can be washed down into the soil and infect the tubers which then rot in storage and carry innoculum back into the field if used as seed.

In large part, controlling an outbreak of late blight in our climate means keeping your fingers crossed for good weather. In addition to wishful thinking, we also use a few cultural methods to help keep our plants happy. Early tomatoes are grown in the greenhouse. This gives them some extra heat so they ripen sooner- ie. this week! In addition, the plastic keeps the rain off and reduces the incidence of late blight. We also use drip irrigation, because overhead sprinklers increase the humidity around plants and can splash innoculum onto healthy tissue.

By using certified disease free seed potato tubers we know we aren’t bringing more disease into our fields on the potato plants. At the end of the season we clean up the fields and plant cover crops so that infected potatoes don’t have a chance to spread disease to next year’s crop. We also make sure that diseased and cull potatoes are well composted, and that we have long rotations between potato and tomato crops.

Commercial potato and tomato growers use systemic fungicides, but the late blight pathogen populations often develop resistance to these chemicals. Organic growers can use more traditional fungicides like copper, but these too can have side effects and are not always efficacious. Some breeding for resistance has been done and we are trialing several different “resistant” varieties this year. Hopefully we’ll have a disease free season, though if it does show up at least we can take some consolation in the education.

Work parties are the first Sat. of every month and the next one is…
The Big Potato Dig: Aug. 5th, 1-5pm,Luscher Farm

The Weather: A bit of rain in the forecast, but it hasn’t amounted to much
Thank you everyone for all your help!

Your share this week may include:

Braising Mix baby Mustard and Mizuna greens can be added to be a spicy salad or cooked up.
Carrots Sweet baby bunches
Cilantro with those fresh tomatoes…
Fennel There were several recipes for fennel in the last newsletter
Garlic Fresh Heads!
Parsley This flat leaf Italian variety will be a staple throughout the summer. I made parsley pesto to drizzle on our soup at lunch.
Raab Everyone always talks about how bitter these greens are & I just don’t get it? They are so good!
Purple Scallions such beautiful color
Spring Onions Use both the green stem and the bulb
Tomatoes!! First of the season, these little Stupice tomatoes from the greenhouse are super tasty

Coming Soon… Summer Squash and Cucumbers!

Green Pizza
Shareholder Sandra Steiner

ß Chop 6-8 leaves of chard, collards or other greens and one sweet onion. Drizzle with oil and either sauté to wilt or microwave for 2 minutes on high to remove a lot of the moisture.
ß I use either pesto or ranch dressing ( I have a recipe for homemade if you want) for the base
ß Pizza dough: 1cup warm water, two Tblsp yeast, 1 tsp salt, 3 Tblsp olive oil, and wheat or white flour mixed in until no longer sticky- knead two minutes, rest it 15 minutes and roll it out.
ß Put the wilted greens on top, then we like Italian sausage, mushrooms, and lots of good mozzarella, maybe some smoked gouda, and fresh grated Romano.
ß Bake at 425 degrees in preheated oven for about 15 minutes.

I am having great success with my kids eating greens by making this recipe!