Tomato late blight


This important disease is caused by a parasitic micro-organism called Phytophthora infestans. This microbe is related to algae, which explains why water (free water, as rain droplets or dew, or saturating humidity) is needed for it to infect the plants.


The disease causes brown, necrotic flecks on all aerial parts of infected plants :

  • leaves: figures 1 - 6
  • stems: figure 7
  • tomato fruits:  figures 8 - 9.

On the lower side of these flecks, a white to grey mould, corresponding to the mycelium and spores of the pathogen, appears. (The spores allow the reproduction, but also the dissemination of P. infestans from plant to plant, and hence cause the epidemic propagation between plots or crops).


The flecks rapidly turn necrotic. Starting from the first infected organ, they expand more or less quickly (depending on the climate and hydric status of the plant) to neighbouring organs, until the plant succumbs to complete necrosis.

Favorable conditions for disease onset and spread

 Primary infections can originate from several sources : volunteer plants, infected compost, refuse piles, infected plantlets, which all serve as reservoirs of primary inoculum. It is critical to detect these primary infections as soon as they appear, because disease develops usually very quickly once the pathogen gets established into a plant or plot.  

The first symptoms normally appear a few days after a rainy or high humidity (dewy/foggy) period. The pathogen grows optimally around 18/20 °C ; it is able to grow as soon as temperatures exceed  8 à 10 °C, but its growth is strongly slowed down or completely stopped when temperature exceeds  25 °-28 °C.

Controlling tomato late blight

  • Choose the right cultivar: always prefer resistant cultivars in areas of recurrent risk ;
  • Eliminate primary inoculum sources: weed out all volunteers, do not compost infected plants or fruits ;
  • Carefully handle crops:
    • avoid persistant water on leaves, stems and fruits, by watering directly at the base of the plants and using mulches to avoid water projection,  ;
    • monitor the plants for the presence of symptoms, and eliminate initial infections (roguing infected leaflets or secondary stems for instance) before the disease can spread to other organs and fruits.
Last change : 04/25/22
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