April 2021 is Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month, designed to raise public awareness about the threat of invasive pests and diseases, which can devastate agriculture, livelihoods and food security. The national outreach initiative declared by USDA enlists the public in the fight against invasive pests, which threaten not only agriculture, but also forests and natural resources.
APHIS will partner with the North American Plant Protection Organization and Niagara Falls State Park to hold a special illumination ceremony on April 19-20 from 7-9 p.m. for 15 minutes at the top of every hour (watch it live here: https://www.cliftonhill.com/niagara-falls/livecam). The falls will glow with green light in celebration of the United Nations' International Year of Plant Health and to emphasize the need to protect plant health across North America and around the world.
“In this increasingly interconnected and mobile society, it has become even more important for the community to help us protect our agricultural and natural resources from the threat of hitchhiking invasive pests,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “We need your help to stop them before they pose a significant risk. If you see a suspicious plant pest, contact your USDA State Plant Health Director. You could save a forest, farm or vineyard by making a simple phone call.”
Many invasive plant pests and diseases are natural hitchhikers, making it all too easy for people to unintentionally move them to new areas. Hungry pests can hide in untreated firewood, attach themselves to outdoor gear and recreational vehicles, and even take a ride in the mail. They can also be accidentally moved to new areas via agricultural mediums such as soil, seeds, produce and plants. Invasive pests have no natural predators in their new environments and are more likely to throw their ecosystem off balance than domestic organisms, which have evolved in their native habitats and pose less risk to plant health.
Here’s what you can do to help protect your farm, forests and natural resources from invasives:
- Familiarize yourself with the invasive pests already found in your area, as well as the tell-tale signs they leave on wild plants and agriculture.
- Look for signs of invasive plant pests and diseases and report them to your local Extension office, state department of agriculture or your USDA State Plant Health Director’s office.
- When returning from international travel, declare all agricultural items, including soil, to U.S. Customs and Border Protection so they can ensure your items arrive pest-free.
- Don’t move untreated firewood. Buy certified, heat-treated firewood or responsibly gather wood where you burn it to avoid unintentionally spreading tree-killing beetles that hide inside untreated firewood.
- Be careful about where you source your plants and seeds. If you purchase them online, choose reputable domestic suppliers, or import them legally to ensure you don’t also accidentally import exotic pests and diseases.
- When in doubt, and before buying seeds or plants online from international vendors, you can contact your USDA State Plant Health Director’s office to find out what you need to do to bring them into the United States legally and without pests.