Blight Threatens Illinois Pumpkin Crop

URBANA, Ill., June 29 (UPI) — Illinois pumpkin growers say they fear a dreaded blight which almost destroyed the industry a decade ago is once again threatening their crops.

Wet conditions have farmers on the lookout for the Phytopthora blight, which in 1999 caused 100 percent crop losses in some parts of the state, a University of Illinois release said Monday.

Pumpkins from Illinois account for nearly 95 percent of the crop grown in the United States for use in pies, breads and other foods, the release said.

“An outbreak of Phytophthora blight in Illinois could devastate most of the country’s supply of processed pumpkins,” said Mohammad Babadoost, a University of Illinois specialist in fruit and vegetable pathology.

Illinois has approximately 25,000 acres of pumpkins with a gross value exceeding $160 million per year.

Phytophthora blight affects pumpkins, watermelon, honeydew, squash, zucchini, cucumbers and other vine vegetables, Babadoost says.

“Despite our attempts to prevent Phytophthora blight from spreading, it is doing exactly that,” Babadoost said. “It’s a nasty pathogen. I’ve seen it destroy entire fields. Once the fruit is infected, it’s not suitable to process, eat or carve.”

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