Stakeholders want screening for invasive plant species

Mar 7, 2013

Stakeholders in the Rocky Mountain region are in unanimous agreement about what needs to be done about invasive plant species. That’s according to a new study published in the journal Bioscience.

They are common invaders—cheat grass, leafy spurge, salt cedar, yellow toadflax and spotted knapweed. Project leader and UW professor Edward Barbier says that what sometimes begin as attractive lawn shrubs purchased from local nurseries can escape, and proliferate, taking over land, choking out native plants and providing less than ideal grazing material for livestock.

Cheat Grass
Credit Aaron Domini

“It’s often not appreciated how much damage are caused by plant invasives,” says Barbier, “For example, it’s been estimated that the total damage to the US economy each year from reductions in crop yields and pasture forage caused by invasive plants is 27 billion dollars and we spend 8 billion dollars trying to control exotic weeds and their invasions in agriculture.”

So Barbier’s research team asked farmers, ranchers, environmentalists, horticultural industry, government experts, and land managers how to deal with the problem. Out of five solutions, participants unanimously supported the establishment of a mandatory system to screen and ban plant species that have a high likelihood of invasion. The screening would need to be at federal points of entry.

“It seems that the USDA is already interested in developing something along these lines. The fact that stakeholders from the horticulture industry acknowledge that something has to be done shows that they are aware of the problem and want to also participate.”

The screening would primarily deal with commercially-imported plants for nurseries.