Protect Minnesota from invasive plant pest and diseases

By Erin Stiers and Geir Friisoe

Guest Columnists

Are you helping invasive pests spread in Minnesota or around our country? You may have heard that invasive plant pests and diseases are primarily introduced through commercial trade—that’s true. But once they are here, these destructive plant pests don’t move far on their own; they are mostly spread by us. Through our everyday actions—when we take firewood from home to our campsite, mail a gift of homegrown fruits or plants, or order plants, seeds or fruit online—we can contribute to the unintentional spread of any number of destructive plant pests. So when people wonder if their individual actions really matter—the answer is yes.

Damaging pests like the emerald ash borer (EAB), and gypsy moth threaten communities and the entire State of Minnesota. These pests can hide in firewood. We are also monitoring for the brown marmorated stink bug that can cause major damage to fruit, vegetable, and row crops, and become a major nuisance to homeowners. Invasive weeds like recently discovered Palmer amaranth could cost crop farmers millions of dollars in lost revenue. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn more about these harmful plants and pests, take responsibility for your actions, and help us stop the spread of invasive species.

It only takes one person to move something they shouldn’t. For instance, we know the EAB beetle didn’t fly to Minnesota on its own, it hitchhiked here. And now all of our urban, suburban and rural ash trees are at risk of attack by this devastating pest. And, the risks from EAB stretch well beyond our borders, today EAB infestations are in 30 States.

Invasive plant pests and diseases are a threat in almost every state. If we allow them to enter and become established, these pests could devastate our neighborhoods and public green spaces, and cause damage to native species of plants, forests, watersheds, lakes, rivers and water delivery systems. As it stands today, damage from invasive plant pests costs our nation about $40 billion annually.

To protect our state, we are asking Minnesotans to join us in the battle against invasive plant pest and diseases. Give us a call to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Arrest the Pest line at 1-888-545-6684 to learn what you can do. This April—Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month—we urge you to help stop the spread of these harmful pests.

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Erin Stiers is the Plant Health Director for the State of Minnesota, and Geir Friisoe is the Director of the Plant Protection Division for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.