Invasive species not only threaten but have already caused significant ecological damage and financial losses to key sectors of New York’s $5 billion agricultural economy.
In response, the state departments of Agriculture and Markets and Environmental Conservation (DEC) joined forces recently to educate the public about controlling the spread of nuisance insects and plants during Invasive Species Awareness Week.
The state budget includes $13.3 million for research, prevention and management of invasive species such as the spotted lanternfly. This extremely harmful insect, first found in Pennsylvania where it’s damaged vineyards, is one of the main pests New York officials are on the lookout for.
“It affects grapes, apples and many other host trees and plants, a huge array of different species,” said Molly Hassett, DEC invasive species response and management coordinator. “It’s a leaf hopper. It pierces the vines or stems of plants and cuts out nutrients and energy.”
“There hasn’t been a confirmed population inside New York state yet, but there’s been a couple detections inside packaging shipped from Pennsylvania to New York that had some dead spotted lanternfly in them,” she said. “It has moved from Pennsylvania to several other states such as Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.”
Hassett urged people traveling from Pennsylvania to New York to be careful, especially if they’re moving equipment or own homes in both states.
“They lay their eggs all over the place — trailers, lawn equipment, boats, anything left outside,” she said. “You can also look for little nymphs, which are red or black with spots. The adults are strange-looking, but are a pretty color when their wings lay back.”
Renee St. Jacques, New York Farm Bureau associate director of public policy, said it’s difficult to name an invasive species that poses the highest risk to agriculture since each one affects a different agricultural commodity.
For example, the European cherry fruit fly is a pest that damages sweet and tart cherries. Unmanaged, it can cause a 100% crop loss.
The Asian longhorned beetle is a wood-boring beetle that can have a devastating impact on New York state’s forestry sector and hardwood timber industry. It also can damage maple trees.
Another invasive species is the plum pox virus, which impacts stone fruit trees, rendering them useless and shortens the productive lifespan of orchards. In addition, the spotted wing drosophila infests all types of fruit during the ripening stage.
The Asian giant hornet, which can destroy honeybee hives, is another pest that hasn’t reached New York yet. But there’s been a lot of media attention about it, highlighted during Invasive Species Awareness Week, an annual campaign that includes outreach to farmers on the potential impact of invasive species on agricultural commodities and farms.
St. Jacques chairs and is Farm Bureau’s representative on the New York Invasive Species Advisory Committee, which reviews invasive species research and issues, and advises the New York Invasive Species Council.
“Farmers and the public can play a significant role in the prevention, early detection, management, and reporting of invasive species,” she said. “Anyone can report the sighting of an invasive species through New York iMapInvasives, an online, invasive species database and mapping tool.”
Farmers may contact Farm Bureau with questions about invasive species and learn how to report them, along with their management, prevention and detection.
“Farmers and the public are also encouraged to reach out to their local Partnerships for Regional Invasive Species Management, which coordinate management and work with volunteers to detect and control invasive species, and organize informational events and webinars,” St. Jacques said.
Additional pests on the state’s radar are the Asian gypsy moth, pine processionary moth, cucurbit beetle and six-toothed bark beetle.
But in addition to insects, a variety of invasive plant species can wreak havoc in farm fields and grazing areas. Wild parsnip produces a compound in its leaves, stems, flowers and fruits that causes intense, localized burning, rash, severe blistering, and discoloration on contact with the skin on sunny days. This plant can be a serious problem if found while harvesting crops or at you-pick operations.
Mile-a-minute is a plant that invades Christmas tree farms, orchards and nurseries. There are other plants that invade hay fields and pastures including wild chervil and leafy spurge. Giant hogweed can cause severe skin burns and is also toxic to livestock if mixed with hay.
It is important for farmers to report any sightings of invasive species and implement best practices to manage these plants.
The state agriculture department urges all farmers to be vigilant for indicators of invasive species on their land, and should sanitize used, loaned or leased equipment before and after use.
Additionally, farmers are encouraged to stay up-to-date with communications and trainings from the New York State Integrated Pest Management program.
More information can be found at nysipm.cornell.edu