Evolving Efforts to Protect Plants from Pests

By Laura Pottorff, CGG, Nursery & Plant Pest Quarantine Program Manager, Colorado Department of Agriculture

2019 has brought many positive events to the Colorado Department of Agriculture, beginning with the appointment of Kate Greenberg as Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture, and a governor who has challenged all of us to look to the future to support change, encourage high value agricultural enterprises, and facilitate an agricultural industry for the future, not the past.

Tracking Invasive Pests

A primary function of the Plant Health and Certification Section within CDA Plant Industry is to protect agriculture from the introduction and spread of invasive pests. We monitor and restrict the movement of Japanese beetle and the nursery stock it may move on. A great deal of effort is spent on the Western Slope to maintain that area of our state as ‘free from’ Japanese beetle.

Emerald ash borer (EAB) continues to move, confirmed to be in Broomfield in August and Westminster in September. We work collaboratively with CNGA, the Colorado State Forest Service, CSU, and community foresters to spread the message of “Don’t Move Firewood” and prepare for the arrival of EAB by removing unhealthy ash, replacing it with diverse tree species, and protecting high value ash trees with appropriately labeled pesticides as necessary.

CDAs’ Cooperative Pest Survey Program monitors for gypsy moth, spotted lanternfly and Asian long-horned beetle introductions. Although gypsy moth has been introduced several times, our eradication efforts have all been successful.

Japanese Beetle Population Increasing

Unfortunately, populations of Japanese beetle keep expanding and increasing along the Front Range. As our communities and population continue to grow, we add more housing and commercial buildings. These properties all need to be landscaped, a huge economic positive for the nursery industry, but native dryland landscapes turn into irrigated urban landscapes, all conducive to Japanese beetle spread. We’ve seen increases in populations of the beetle throughout the Denver metro area, on CSU Campus and Fort Collins, and spread to irrigated landscapes along northern I-25. CDA continues to make keeping the Western Slope and our nursery exports JB free a priority.

Less Government Restrictions

EAB is similar. With our two confirmations of the insect outside the original quarantine area as of early September, it’s time for the quarantine to be repealed. Why? Our original goal when establishing the quarantine was to slow the insect down. It is impossible to quarantine an insect that cannot be detected early; when we find it, the pest has been in an area for at least three years. The reality: EAB is now in the metro area “proper” and poised to spread a little faster due to close proximity of ash and contiguous urban landscapes. Thank you to Boulder County and all the cities, nurseries, arborists, and residents who worked very hard to comply with the quarantine. They gave us six years to get ready. Are you ready for EAB?

The Future

Elimination of the EAB quarantine will foster reuse and recycling of ash tree wood and keep costs from rising for wood disposal options. Collectively, we all need to work together to educate the public regarding best management strategies available for mitigating EAB. Your industry plays the key role in fostering tree species and plant diversity, the primary landscape resiliency and invasive pest mitigation tool. Your industry is also key in helping spread the “Don’t Move Firewood” message; infested wood is the primary means of long-distance spread of tree and forest pests!

Lastly, you will notice that nursery registration fees will be raised to $170 per year beginning in 2020, and inspection fees are $45 per hour. While this may seem like a drastic change, it is a very, very necessary increase that CDA must implement to be able to continue to provide quality services and market equity mandates. We pledge to expand our educational efforts towards landscape contractors and the public, and continue to protect agriculture from invasive species. We value the collaborative partnerships we have with your industry. Our goal is to facilitate keeping the Colorado nursery industry strong, well into the future.