An Alabama wholesaler linked to a destructive tomato blight that turned up in Northeastern big box retail stores has pulled its plants from New York and five other states, the Times Union in Albany, N.Y. reports.
Company officials at Bonnie Plants, however, harbor doubts that the disease, known as late blight, originated in its greenhouses, which extend into 38 states, company General Manager Dennis Thomas says.
Pulling plants out of Home Depot, Lowe’s and Walmart stores in New York, New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts since news of the blight broke last week has probably cost the company $1 million in lost sales, Thomas said.
In New York, diseased tomato seedlings were found for sale in a Scotia retailer, according to Cornell Cooperative Extension, with reports also coming in from Tompkins County, Plattsburgh and Malone.
"We are not irresponsible," said Thomas, of the 91-year-old company, which has 62 greenhouse complexes. Inspections by state officials of company greenhouses in Pennsylvania and New Jersey found no evidence of the blight, according to records provided.
Bonnie Plants did not knowingly ship any infected tomato plants, and it questioned whether the blight may have occurred after plants arrived at Northeast retailers, Thomas said. The company shipped most of its tomatoes to the region during April and May, he said.
Cornell University had linked the blight to shipments from a company greenhouse in Georgia. That greenhouse uses organic methods, which do not include the pesticides that can keep blight at bay, says Thomas. He said "less than 1 percent" of the company’s tomato shipments this spring came from that greenhouse.
Thomas says the company expects to have its plants reappear on store shelves in the Northeast by the end of the month, when it will ship herbs and cold-weather plants.