Fungi

Winter is fungi’s favorite season around here!  The December rains and January fog brought out an unusual number of mushrooms and fungi of all sorts.  At least more than I’ve seen in the past three years. (None though, that I would eat!)

2010 was also the first year that downy mildew and other similar plant diseases have been a problem for me.

Here is a leaf with some sort of infection. I’m still not sure exactly what the infection is, and it’s probably not important, though I am curious:

Usually mildews and bacterials diseases spread from plant to plant by splashes of water (such as rain), wind, dirt, and insects. Once a leaf is infected, this particular disease spreads through the veins. You can see on the above leaf how the brown coloring is spreading along the veins. If you break off that infected leaf, you’ll see that the veins are carrying the infection down to the main plant stem. It has gone “systemic”:

Here is a leaf where the infection is just starting:

The leaf’s central veins still look clear; they have not yet spread the infection to the rest of the plant:

I haven’t found much information yet about controlling mildews on a small organic level. Ideally I won’t plant susceptible crops in this garden area for a few years (crop rotation!), but I still need to get the current plants through spring.

Here are a few things that help control mildews, fungi, and bacterial diseases:

1) taking infected leaves off plants at first sign of infection.

2) Not crowding plants. There should be sufficient room between plants for air circulation and light penetration. The air and sun dry off the plants, making disease less likely to spread. Luckily, the goats are happy to eat the slightly diseased plants I pull out:

3) Milk! Spraying plants with watered down milk (10-20% milk mixed into water) can help control mildews. I haven’t tried this yet but want to!  Apparently the milk changes the surface pH of the leaves enough to discourage mildew growth. It works better as a preventative and for new infections than on already established infections though.

4) Compost Tea. Some people say the microorganisms in compost tea help the plant combat diseases. I don’t have an proof of my own to offer on this, but some people swear by it.

In other words, there are many experiments to do! But not today! It’s pouring outside!

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2 Responses to Fungi

  1. Laura says:

    Hey Anna! I love your blog. I don’t comment much, but always stop in to see how things are going over at the old Heifer farm.
    I’m glad to see you have goats again! I want to ask you if you have any interest in adopting Taco’s orphaned kids (two girls and a castrated boy). They still need the bottle twice a day for at least 6 more weeks, but are trained to it so it’s easy, assuming you can get the milk. Unfortunately they still have their horns. I have no idea if you’re even interested in this at all, but thought I would ask just in case! I would give them to you for free, and you could keep them or maybe you know someone who would really benefit from eating them (because I don’t… right now, it looks like they’re headed for auction soon).
    Anyway, just let me know either way, no pressure. But I would have felt pretty bad if I got rid of them when they could have been of benefit to you!

    • upliftfarm says:

      LAURA!!

      I would LOVE to have Taco’s babies!!!!!!!!! How great (and kinda sad) would it be to have offspring of a “Heifer” goat again. But I’m going away for two days the first weekend of April and I’m not sure I know anyone that would come twice a day to feed them. Any chance they would be able to eat solid food for a few days by then? Let’s talk more in any case.

      Thanks for offering! 🙂

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