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Record rainfall taking a toll on area

By: Lacy Hilliard
Tomahawk Writer/Photographer

For those that enjoy outdoor summertime activities, this summer certainly has not been beneficial to such endeavors. With record rainfall in Johnson County and surrounding areas, the consequences of this overly saturated season are slowly becoming apparent.
Many Johnson County residents have experienced flooding at some point this summer. Some have even been left stranded as creeks have risen, often covering roadways and bridges that serve as the only outlet to main roads in some areas of the county. Others are still dealing with the damage floodwaters have left behind to their homes and businesses. However, the long-term struggles associated with flood-like conditions often come as a surprise.
Local gardeners have found this season to be extremely challenging. Many have lost entire crops due to the overly moist conditions. Others are struggling to combat weather related disease and insect infestations. One of the most common problems gardeners have been experiencing is blight. And it affects one of the most beloved summer crops – tomatoes.
Blight can occur in two different forms and is categorized as early blight and late blight. The University of Tennessee Extension Agency states that early blight is the most common disease to affect tomatoes in East Tennessee. The UT Extension Agency also states that “the early blight fungus is spread by wind and splashing rain, and outbreaks are favored by warm, rainy weather. The fungus overwinters in crop debris and on seeds and can survive between crops on solanaceous crops and weeds.” Because the fungus possesses the ability to survive over winter, it can be difficult to eradicate it, especially if the weather is creating the perfect environment for early blight to thrive. The less common but far more destructive late blight is “a regionally significant disease because of its ability to spread long distances,” according to the UT Extension Agency. There are many fungicides used to battle blight. The correct way to treat tomato blight depends both on the classification and the severity of the outbreak.
Another common plant disease that can thrive in wet weather is Root Rot. The disease can occur in both indoor and outdoor plants. Indoor plants typically become infected as a result of overwatering. However, due to the overwhelming amount of rain as of late in Johnson County, Root Rot has become a common outdoor problem during this growing season. Because the condition deteriorates the root of the plant, little can be done to combat it. Once a plant possesses noticeable symptoms of root rot, it is often too late.
The poor growing conditions have many consumers wondering whether or not the cost of produce will skyrocket as a result. The Tomahawk contacted Food Country U.S.A. Manager Vance Henderson to gain insight as to whether or not an increase in the price of produce will occur locally. Henderson said that while he hasn’t been told prices will increase as of yet, he suspects that they could. If prices do rise, Henderson advises consumers to “keep an eye on promotions and buy smart.”

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