After a fairly relaxing day in beautiful Arequipa, we went further southwards today. In this area we will be able to find three species. The most dominant one will be S. chilense, but we could also encounter S Peruvianum and S. Corneriomullerrii. The general area is extremely, and that means extremely dry. But There are a lot of valley were rivers flow all year round or in certain seasons. Besides that, the area experiences a lot of very heavy fog. We experienced such fog already on our first trip from Lima. This fog is so dense that in the car you will have to turn on your windscreen wipers. It looks like you drive through a light drizzle. This of course creates perfect infection conditions. For the next week, we got a different car. Driving will probably a bit more comfortable, but we don’t have the nice working space in the back anymore.
From Arequipa we drove to the coast. Not far outside the city we started to see the first plants. Unfortunately, we were right in morning traffic and driving on a main road (connecting the Peruvian coast with Brasil), so we had to skip a lot of samples, because we just could not stop. We knew we would get some others later and on next trips we can definitely find a way to collect here as well. When the road got a bit quieter, unfortunately, the landscape also got flatter and more importantly, it got drier, so the frequency of plants along the road decreased from one every several hundered meters to basically none for about 50 km. But as soon as the hills came back and there were signs of riverbeds, the first plants reappeared. It is incredible to see how these plants look so healthy in such dry regions. But, like I said before. Mist is a thing here and they really capture the humidity. The warning signs for the “Zona Neblina” were everywhere and we saw several net installations that are used to capture water from the air to drink or for agriculture.
From this point, I think we saw well over a thousand plants scattered along the roads. Sometimes single individuals, sometimes large groups of plants. Very interesting to see. The dry landscape was sometimes interrupted by some very lush fields and even grazing cows, but this was of course only very close to the rivers. Overall, the landscape was rugged and beautiful. Some tomatoes seemed to look completely healthy, not a single brown lesion, whereas others had some sign of infection. In many cases, there was also considerable drought stress, so some leaves would start to turn brown. Unfortunately, this browning can look very similar to infection symptoms, so picking the right plants took a bit longer than we expected. The views made up for it though.
The evening we spent in Moquegua. a quiet medium sized town in a fairly green valley. Unfortunately I didn’t have much time to see a lot of the town, because during the day, we did not manage to find a space to process the samples, so I had to set up a hotel room lab. Then again processing infected wild tomato samples is strangely gratifying.