Attentive action can help prevent spread of unwanted, non-native plants

Though once used widely in landscape design, the Bradford (Callery) pear tree is now considered by many to be a nuisance plant.Though once used widely in landscape design, the Bradford (Callery) pear tree is now considered by many to be a nuisance plant.Last year, when people across the U.S. and Canada re­ceived unsolicited packets of seed believed to originate in China, the Weed Science Society of America (WSSA) was among those to raise the alarm and say the seeds shouldn’t be planted. Authorities had discovered some packets contained noxious weed seeds that could threaten both agricultural and natural areas.

Jacob Barney, an associate professor at Virginia Tech who spe­cializes in invasive plants, said the caution is well warranted.

“The decisions each of us make can have long-lasting results that impact future generations,” he said. “When we intention­ally or unintentionally plant species that originate outside the region where we live, we run the risk of introducing weedy invaders that can harm our environment, our economy and even human health.”

In fact, some of North America’s most troublesome invasive weeds owe their origins to poor decisions, inattention or a lack of understanding of the potential risks that non-native plants can represent. For example, the Bradford pear tree, a variant of the callery pear, was once in high demand in the horticultural industry. Unfortunately, they’ve proven to be a real pest when growing outside their native environment, crowding out native species and creating dense thickets that are virtually impassable.

 

Cheatgrass, also known as downy brome in the eastern U.S., is believed to have been introduced to the United States from Europe in the 1800s via contaminated grain and packing materials. At one point it was even purposefully planted by the USDA to remediate degraded rangelands. Today cheatgrass infests every region of the U.S. It overtakes native plant species and is a common pest in crop fields, nurseries and orchards.

Another example is hydrilla, which made its way to the U.S. a half century ago when a Missouri tropical fish dealer imported the plant from Sri Lanka for aquariums. The aggressive aquatic weed is now among the most widespread of the 112 weeds on the Federal Noxious Weed list. It clogs waterways, displaces native vegetation, and contributes to harmful algae blooms.

Here are tips to help protect against new invasive species and to avoid spreading those that are already entrenched:

1. Don’t bring it back. You may fall in love with the exotic plants you spot during a tour of a foreign country. But take photos and resist the temptation to bring specimens home. Federal regulations place strict limits on any non-native plant or plant parts you hope to grow back home. You’ll need a special certification that the plant is safe for import.

2. Go native. Select plants native to your region. Unlike non-native plants, you’ll find they are well behaved and won’t crowd other beneficial native species. They also provide food and habitat for butterflies, insects, birds and other animals.

3. Make smart purchases. If you are planting from seed, buy local seeds certified to contain minimal contaminants. Read the label carefully to see what’s included so you don’t plant non-native invaders that can overrun your garden.

4. Be careful outdoors. Take commonsense measures to make certain you aren’t transporting invasive weeds as you travel and enjoy camping, boating, hiking or other outdoor activities. Carefully inspect and wash your boat, vehicle, ATV, hiking boots or other equipment to remove any plant fragments or seeds you’ve picked up along the way. And avoid carrying firewood with you from one location to an­other.

5. Become a “spotter.” Early detection of new invasive weed outbreaks can help authorities take swift action to prevent further spread. Familiarize yourself with the invasive weeds most prevalent in your area—information that is available through the Invasive Plant Council covering your state or region. In MFA territory, that organization is the Midwest Invasive Plant Network www.mipn.org. These same organizations typically have reporting protocols for new infestations you might discover.

For more information and educational resources, visit the North American Invasive Species Management Association website at naisma.org.

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Conservation-minded landowners sought for Leopold Award

2020 Leopold Yoder 2 23Recipients of the state's 2020 Leopold Conservation Award were the Yoder family of Shelby County - Joshlin and Addie and their children, Aliza, Hazel, Scarlett and Linus.Applications are now being accepted for the 2021 Missouri Leopold Conservation Award Program, recognizing farmers, ranchers and other private landowners who go above and beyond in the care and management of natural resources. Nominees could win a $10,000 award for their efforts.

The Sand County Foundation, a nonprofit conservation organization, presents the Leopold Award in 23 states based on such criteria as innovation, adaptability, resilience, leadership and communications. Missouri Farmers Care, a coalition of agricultural organizations including MFA Incorporated, partners with the foundation to bring the award to the Show-Me State.

In Missouri, the 2020 winners were Joshlin and Addie Yoder of Leonard, Mo. Previous state award recipients are the Brinker family of Auxvasse in 2019, the Scherder family of Frankford in 2018 and the Lambert family of Laclede in 2017.

Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the award recognizes those who inspire others with their dedication to land, water and wildlife habitat management on private, working land. In his influential 1949 book, “A Sand County Almanac,” Leopold called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage.

Nominations may be submitted on behalf of a landowner, or landowners may nominate them­selves. Applications can be found and submitted online at mofarmerscare.com/lca or mailed to Missouri Farmers Care, c/o Kari Asbury, 4481 Brown Station Road, Columbia, MO 65202. All applications must be submit­ted or postmarked by June 30.

Finalists will be announced in September with plans to pres­ent the award in November 2021 at the Missouri Governor’s Conference on Agriculture.

More information on the award and its recipients can be found at sandcountyfoundation.org.

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Drive to Feed Kids donates 1 million meals in 2020

Like many activities in 2020, the Missouri Farmers Care (MFC) Drive to Feed Kids looked a little different due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the mission—to raise awareness of childhood food insecurity and support for food banks across the state—became even more critical.

“Farmers and ranchers work 365 days a year to produce abundance from our farms and ranches,” said Ashley McCarty, MFC executive director. “The Drive to Feed Kids addresses the disconnect where that abundance doesn’t reach our neighbors’ dinner tables. We are again heartened by the gener­osity of Missouri agriculture that shines through the Drive to Feed Kids.”

According to Feeding Missouri, the association of the state’s six regional food banks, more than 800,000 Missourians faced food insecurity before COVID-19. The association estimates that number has now increased by 39% to 1.1 million Missourians, including 335,260 children.

“In 2020, that need was greater than we’ve ever seen,” said Scott Baker, state director of Feeding Missouri. “As demand has spiked at food banks and pantries across the state, so, too, has the help provided by Missouri’s farmers.”

Even after adjusting to the challenges of 2020, the year­long Drive to Feed Kids still resulted in 1 million meals for food-insecure Missourians. The program benefited from several key partnerships and programs, including:

  • MFC and the Missouri Pork Association created the Pork Partnership to help bridge the gap between families in need and producers who faced a reduction in process­ing availability due to coronavirus-related slowdowns. All told, Missouri farmers provided 69,670 pounds of ground pork to Feeding Missouri.
  • Both Missouri 4-H and FFA initiated major community ser­vice activities to support the Drive to Feed Kids. This past spring, 4-H members provided 297,132 meals during a four-month 4-H Feeding Missouri campaign. Even though FFA members were not able hold their service day at the Missouri State Fair, a mini-grant program was created in which 63 FFA chapters each received $300 to fund food insecurity projects.
  • Missourians met a 50,000-meal challenge by giving indi­vidual donations. These contributions, along with $1,145 raised by FCS Financial employees, allowed Missouri ag­riculture to reach its goal. Missouri Soybean Association matched every dollar contributed to the challenge for a grand total of $10,000, providing the purchasing power of 50,000 meals.

MFA Incorporated is among industry sponsors of Missouri Farmers Care’s Drive to Feed Kids. To learn more, visit MOFarmersCare.com/drive.

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