Currently most of the world is focused on Covid-19, and rightly so. We’ve watched the spread of the virus from one country to another and see the destruction it is leaving behind with the loss of tens of thousands of lives; upheaval of national economies while grounding some industries to a halt; and the list goes on. Lives around the world will be changed forever because of this pandemic. The agricultural sector has been dealt a severe blow by the trickle down effects of Covid-19. Farmers who have worked hard all season long growing crops or raising livestock are unable to find markets for their goods. The loss to the sector is staggering.
A piece of information not well known to many outside of the agricultural sector, is that the sector faces major losses each year due to new pest and pathogen introductions, also called invasive species. In Florida alone, we see on average two new invasive pests become established each month. Federal and state governments spend multiple millions of dollars each year in an attempt to prevent and eradicate new pest introductions. Sometimes these efforts are successful and other times not. The rate of spread of invasive species can vary depending on weather, availability of suitable hosts, presence of natural enemies, and so on. After Covid-19 has passed, and hopefully it will soon, we must adjust to a new normal.
Covid-19 has brought issues related to food security to the forefront. In addition to supporting local farmers, you can also help to protect the sector by no longer travelling with plants, seeds, fruits and vegetables from the U.S. to another country and vice versa. Even within the US, there may be restrictions on movement of plant materials between states depending on many factors, including but not limited to, if certain pests are in one state and not the other. Humans are the primary means of introduction of invasive species into and around the U.S. through intentional or unintentional acts. You have a role to play to stop the spread.
The United States Department of Agriculture Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Plant Protection and Quarantine has a Leave Hungry Pests Behind Campaign that provides information on how you can play a role in preventing the spread of invasive species, within the US and internationally. For more information visit: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/resources/pests-diseases/hungry-pests/what-you-can-do/what-you-can-do
Photo Credit: Eugene Silcott – Giant African Land Snail
The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences (UF-IFAS) Extension is an equal opportunity institution.