The University of Maine Cooperative Extension says late blight sightings have been confirmed over the last month throughout Aroostook County and the Midcoast areas. Meanwhile, the Maine Vegetable and Small Fruit Growers Association has received reports coming in from Androscoggin and Kennebec counties.
"I mean, I get a call everyday with somebody who has either got late blight now or thinks that they have late blight that we're checking on," says Jim Dill, a pest management specialist at the University of Maine Extension Service.
Dill says there have been at least six to eight cases of late blight on potatoes, and a dozen or so cases of infected tomatoes. It's hard to miss.
"On the tomato or potato, it usually starts out as a lesion type of an area, kind of a light green, and then as it progresses that area turns brown, and if you flip the leaf over, there's this white fuzzy mass growing, which is the actual fungus," Dill says.
Late blight is the same fungus that caused the Irish potato famine in the 1840s. But nowadays, commercial farmers, such as Robert "Jigger" Clark, can stop the spread of late blight with fungicide. He can't afford not to.
"Out of the 10 acres of potatoes that's, you know, I don't know--I'd say a quarter of my income," Clark says. "It would be a substantial loss."
Clark, who farms in Jefferson in the Midcoast area, says he got word about late blight from two fellow farmers less than a week ago. Both called him within minutes of each other, and Clark made sure to finish applying pesticide that day, noting that late blight spores can travel more than 40 miles.
"There was some in Warren at some organic farm, so as the crow flies to my farm, that's probably six miles," he says.
Don Flannery, executive director of the Maine Potato Board, says he's hopeful that this year's late blight problem will not be as bad as what happened in 2009, when the fungus showed up a lot earlier, in June.
As it stands now, Flannery says, other problems have had a bigger impact on Maine's potato crop. "You know, we had a couple of tornados go through, we had some extremely heavy thundershowers that went through, and we lost a considerable amount of production because of that rain," he says.
But Flannery acknowledges that late blight could have a greater impact if the weather continues to stay wet. "We're looking at rain again tonight, tomorrow from what I understand and that doesn't help dry anything up, and it takes away from the ability to go out and spray," he says. "I know last week when we did get a break in the weather, everyone was out spraying the crop and doing what they needed to do."
Thankfully, for growers there is only about a month left before they have to harvest potatoes, and another two months or so for tomatoes before the first frost hits. If they could just make the sun stay out between now and then.