The U.S. Department of Agriculture has declared April 2021 as Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month (IPPDAM). The national outreach initiative enlists the public in the fight against invasive pests. These damaging invaders threaten our nation’s food crops, forests and natural resources. IPPDAM aims to raise public awareness about this threat, which can devastate agriculture, livelihoods, and food security.
In celebration of the United Nations’ International Year of Plant Health, APHIS will partner with the North American Plant Protection Organization and Niagara Falls State Park to hold a special illumination ceremony on April 19 and 20 from 7 to 9 p.m. for 15 minutes at the top of every hour (you can watch it live here). The falls will glow with green light 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 U.S. 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 local 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.
With your help, we can contain the threat of invasive pests and protect American agriculture and natural resources from the pests that threaten them. Here are additional ways in which you can help:
- 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 local 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.
Expand your reach. Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter and visit the Hungry Pests website to learn more about invasive plant pests in your area and what you can do to stop them. To learn more about the International Year of Plant Health, visit USDA’s website or follow #PlantHealth on social media.