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What is Blight?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Blight is a specific form of damage to the tissue of plants caused by colonization by an infectious organism like a virus or fungus. Blighted plants will develop wilting, withering, and browning, often in addition to lesions on the stems and leaves. Infections that cause blight are often known as blights, and can occur in many different types of plants. There are some steps gardeners can take to reduce the incidence of blight in their gardens and fields.

Plants damaged by blight typically develop spots on their leaves, followed by yellowing, withering, and browning. As the plant starts to die, it can dry up. Parts of the plant may break off or collapse, depending on the source of the infection. Blight can spread from plant to plant, causing an entire crop to become infested and useless or ruining a section of an ornamental garden.

Early blight strikes toward the beginning of the growing season, while plants are developing. Plants may have difficulty sprouting, or sicken and die soon after getting established. Late blights wait until the end of the season and attack when plants are fully mature. For crops, this can mean a complete destruction of a crop, like potatoes, tomatoes, or corn, as the disease spreads through the field. For annuals, removing the plants can address the problem, but with perennials and trees, blights can represent a tremendous loss if mature and established plants must be removed.

There are a number of techniques for dealing with blight. Using clean, healthy soil for planting is often recommended, and soil can also be treated to kill bacteria and molds. At the first sight of blighting, removal of infected plants may be recommended, with the plants being securely disposed of so they cannot infect the rest of the garden. It is also possible to apply topical treatments to infected trees and plants to kill the infectious organisms. Providing supportive care to help the plant recover may allow it to survive the blight.

Gardeners are also usually directed to take care in planting and caring for their gardens. Crowded plants are more at risk of becoming infected, as are plants that are not watered appropriately. Watering late in the day can result in retained moisture and subsequent fungal infection, for instance, while plants with low water needs that are overwatered can become blighted. Monitoring garden health closely for any signs of disease and taking prompt action when disease is identified is critical for preventing the spread of disease.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a HomeQuestionsAnswered researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments
By John57 — On Oct 02, 2011

One year my tomatoes had a serious blight problem. This was a spring where we had much more rain than usual and I didn't have much mulch around my plants.

Many gardeners had the same trouble as I had. When I asked a local greenhouse they said there was a spray I could try to use, but I think my plants were too far gone.

The blight was caused from all the mud splashing back up on the leaves of the plants. I was able to save a few plants, but didn't get very many tomatoes that year.

They also told me to plant all of my tomatoes in a different spot the next year. If I planted them in the same spot as where the blight was, I wouldn't get a very good crop.

By hyrax53 — On Oct 02, 2011

My parents' garden was having trouble with blight and disease, especially the pepper plants. The blight went away, mostly, once they caught it and got rid of the diseased plants. I can see why it's so easy to accidentally miss something and have it spread, though.

By panda2006 — On Oct 01, 2011

Hi -- I think that my dracena might have blight, but I'm not sure. It's got these sort of lighter yellow spots on its leaves (usually they're pretty dark green), but I can't imagine how it would have developed blight, since it's not near any other plants, and it's been healthy for a few years.

Do plants just ever spontaneously develop blight, or is there some way that I could have brought it into the house, like on my shoes or something?

Any help is greatly appreciated.

By mitchell14 — On Oct 01, 2011

Yeesh, I hate blight. It seems that no matter what I do, I always end up getting blight on at least one part of my garden every year. I've tried all the different methods of getting rid of it and preventing it, but nothing works.

Are some types of plants just more prone to blight, or do you think it could be related somehow to the climate where I live?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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