From the tractor
by Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler
Every few months or so I like to highlight a division or section of the department for the work they do. This month, I thought I’d mention our Plant Industry Division and the N.C. Forest Service and the way they collaborate on issues involving plant protection and forest health.
It seems particularly timely in light of a recent report titled “Nonnative forest insects and pathogens in the United States: Impacts and Policy Options.” That report indicated that imported forest pests represent the biggest threat to forest health in the United States.
North Carolina is certainly seeing its share of those. We have the hemlock woolly adelgid feeding on Eastern and Carolina hemlocks in the western part of the state, our entire state is under quarantine for the emerald ash borer after it was found in the north, south, east and western parts of the state, and some areas of the state have recently been treated for gypsy moths, which affect oaks and other hardwoods.
Nonnative bugs are not the only threat. The article at the top of this page talks about the federally regulated noxious weed cogongrass, which has been found in Scotland County. This plant has the ability to spread easily and create an inhospitable soil environment for other plants and trees.
These pests, plus many others, keep our Plant Industry Division and our Forest Service staff busy and ever watchful.
With the cogongrass find, a Scotland County Assistant Ranger Jack Franklin noticed an unusually green patch of grass among a stand of trees in December. His curiosity and training alerted us to this highly invasive weed, allowing eradication efforts to begin fairly quickly.
This is not the only case where our Plant Industry Division and the N.C. Forest Service work closely together. Their collaboration is critical in protecting our natural resources, as there are more eyes looking at the health of the forests and trees statewide.
Trees and lush greenery are part of what makes our state so attractive. But if plant pests have taught us anything, it is that we cannot take this beauty and resource for granted.
One of the biggest challenges involving foreign pests is that often there are no natural predators to keep them in check. As more is being learned about them, scientists are finding insects and bugs that are helping to control the unwelcomed pests.
The Plant Industry Division’s Beneficial Insect Lab works with some of these insects and bugs, including beetles that eat hemlock woolly adelgids, a wasp that can capture emerald ash borers as food, and a bug that eats the invasive mile-a-minute plant. This is innovative work.
Trapping efforts and forest monitoring remain primary ways we work to identify the spread of pests. We trap for gypsy moths, emerald ash borers, sweet potato weevils and other pests as needed. It is important to not disturb these important tools if you find them in your area.
I encourage people to keep their eyes out for invasive pests and dying trees. You can learn more about different invasive pests and their signs on our Plant Industry website at www.ncagr.gov/plantindustry/plant/entomology/alert.htm.
If you see something suspicious, you can report it by calling 1-800-206-9333 toll-free or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.