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Protecting Plants: USDA Urges Americans to Look for Invasive Pests in April

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has designated April 2023 as Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month (IPPDAM). This national outreach month is dedicated to raising awareness about the impact of invasive plant pests and diseases on plants across the country and educate Americans about how they can help minimize their spread.

Shivam Dwivedi
Protecting Plants: USDA Urges Americans to Look for Invasive Pests in April
Protecting Plants: USDA Urges Americans to Look for Invasive Pests in April

IPPDAM's goal is to promote public awareness about the problem and how Americans can help protect the country's resources from hungry pests. "Invasive insects and plant diseases cause an estimated $40 billion in damage to the plants that sustain us each year," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. "Invasive species put our food security, agricultural livelihoods, and way of life at risk. Fortunately, there is plenty we can do to protect our resources." 

"This spring, become familiar with your area's invasive pest quarantines and do your part to avoid unintentionally spreading invasive insects and plant illnesses. Many invasive plant pests and diseases are natural hitchhikers that are difficult to detect. It's all too easy to shift them accidently, according to Jenny Moffitt, Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs. Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month serves as a reminder to all of us to keep plant pests and diseases at bay."

Nonnative plant pests can travel in untreated firewood, adhere to cars, boats, and other outdoor surfaces, and even hitch a ride in the mail. They have the ability to go to other regions using agricultural materials such as soil, seeds, cultivated produce, and plants. Because invasive pests have few or no natural predators in their new environments, their populations outnumber local species and spread swiftly.

Non-native plant pests and diseases destabilize our ecosystems and diminish biological diversity. Climate change can amplify the impact of invasive species by increasing plant pest infestations and disease infection, allowing pests to generate more generations each year, and expanding their suitable habitat. Every year, invasive pests have a terrible impact on domestic plant health, and we need the public's cooperation to maintain our ecosystems, food supply, livelihoods, and way of life. We can make a difference if we work together.

Learn about potential quarantines in your area, as well as the symptoms of invasive pest infestations on wild flora and crops. Because invasive plant pest egg masses on outdoor surfaces can be mistaken for a smear of mud, it's critical to clean your automobile and outdoor gear before taking them to new locations. Report any symptoms of new invasive plant pests and diseases to your local Extension office, state department of agriculture, or USDA State Plant Health Director's office.

Untreated firewood should not be moved, even if it appears pest-free on the outside. Buy or acquire wood locally, or use certified, heat-treated firewood, to avoid unwittingly spreading tree-killing beetles that lurk in firewood. Choose your plants and seeds wisely. When ordering plants online, be sure they are from a domestic source or follow import rules. Don't buy agricultural products online if you don't know where they're coming from.  The importer of record, or the individual who purchases and imports the product from overseas, is subject to US regulations, not the online retailer.

Learn how to order plants and seeds online securely and legally. Avoid mailing homemade plants, fruits, and vegetables to avoid accidentally sending a plant pest with them. If you are unsure, contact your local USDA State Plant Health Director's office to find out what you need to do before purchasing seeds or plants online from an international vendor or mailing homegrown agricultural items. Declare all agricultural commodities, including seeds, soil, and handicrafts, to US Customs and Border Protection for inspection while returning from international trip to comply with US rules and avoid importing new invasive species into the US.

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