Potato blight: From Irish famine to Salinas Valley - The Salinas Californian

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Patricia Waldron
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Pests/diseases
Text (summary): 

Research at the Salinas USDA office has helped follow the origins of the disease that caused the Great Famine in Ireland, all the way back to its roots – in Mexico.

Though the Irish strain has since died out, the disease still persists in the Salinas Valley – in tomato crops.

“It’s still a problem today,” said Frank Martin, a Salinas native and plant pathologist at the USDA. “It hasn’t gone away.”

Potato late blight and tomato blight are caused by the same organism: a fungus-like, single-celled microbe called Phytophthera infestans. The organism thrives in wet environments and produces long-lived spores that travel in the wind. It causes potatoes to turn black, wilts leaves and infects the stems.

Europe remained free from potato blight for three centuries after the Spanish introduced potatoes in the 1400s. Then, in 1845, the organism showed up suddenly in Belgium. It spread rapidly through mainland Europe and then to the United Kingdom and Ireland. The resulting Great Famine was especially devastating in Ireland because its population was so dependent on potatoes. One million people died and another million emigrated.

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Locations
LocationCoordinatesZoomRelevanceShow on map
United States
39.76°N 98.5°W
1
0.447
Yes
Ireland
53°N 8°W
1
0.443
No
Salinas, California, United States
36.6777°N 121.656°W
1
0.426
No
Mexico
23°N 102°W
1
0.415
No
United Kingdom
54.7584°N 2.69531°W
1
0.351
No
Tübingen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
48.5227°N 9.05222°E
1
0.322
No
Belgium
50.75°N 4.5°E
1
0.318
No
Germany
51.5°N 10.5°E
1
0.305
No
Gonzales, Louisiana, United States
30.2385°N 90.9201°W
1
0.269
No
Discovery
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Discovery method: 
Robot discovered
Discovery time: 
Fri 2013-Dec-13 01:40
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Original language: 
Original title: 
Potato blight: From Irish famine to Salinas Valley - The Salinas Californian
Original text (summary): 

Research at the Salinas USDA office has helped follow the origins of the disease that caused the Great Famine in Ireland, all the way back to its roots – in Mexico.

Though the Irish strain has since died out, the disease still persists in the Salinas Valley – in tomato crops.

“It’s still a problem today,” said Frank Martin, a Salinas native and plant pathologist at the USDA. “It hasn’t gone away.”

Potato late blight and tomato blight are caused by the same organism: a fungus-like, single-celled microbe called Phytophthera infestans. The organism thrives in wet environments and produces long-lived spores that travel in the wind. It causes potatoes to turn black, wilts leaves and infects the stems.

Europe remained free from potato blight for three centuries after the Spanish introduced potatoes in the 1400s. Then, in 1845, the organism showed up suddenly in Belgium. It spread rapidly through mainland Europe and then to the United Kingdom and Ireland. The resulting Great Famine was especially devastating in Ireland because its population was so dependent on potatoes. One million people died and another million emigrated.