A noxious weed is a plant species which has been designated by an official source as injurious to agricultural or horticultural crops, native habitats or ecosystems, animals and/or humans. Recognition of “noxious weeds” and the need for their control was clearly established by the Federal Noxious Weed Act of 1974. Enacted Jan. 3, 1975, this program empowered the Secretary of Agriculture to designate plants as “noxious” and direct their regulation.
Although some invasive species can slip into the United States naturally via wind, ocean currents, and other means, it’s uncommon. Most invasive species get some help from human activities. They are brought into the country and released intentionally, or they are moved and released as an unintentional byproduct of cultivation, commerce, tourism, or travel. Many species enter the United States each year in cargo, mail and passenger baggage or as contaminants of commodities. Agricultural produce, nursery stock, cut flowers, and timber can harbor insects, disease-causing microorganisms, slugs and snails. These pests can also hitchhike on containers, crates or pallets.
Weeds continue to enter the United States as seed contaminants. Military cargo transport can also bring in harmful species, such as the Asian gypsy moth and brown tree snake. Ballast water released from ships as cargo is loaded or unloaded has brought in several destructive aquatic species. These “means of infection,” or as a common scientific reference, “vector” of contamination or invasion, are varied. These vectors can be surprising in their subtle and innocuous nature.
Clearly, a majority of noxious weeds find their way into new environs and our unsuspecting lives by accident because of ignorance or mismanagement. In the spring, one cannot help but notice the racks of brightly colored seed packs so enticing with the promise of bouquets of beauty. Have you ever imagined that you are looking at a possible invasive vector? Caution! Weed seeds have been stowing away with desirable seeds for hundreds of years.
In 2011, it was estimated that nearly one third of noxious weeds in Oregon arrived as contaminates. Whether for your home flower bed or the farmer growing a crop, careful consideration of the seed is always an important first ounce of prevention.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact our office at (509) 754-2011, Ext. 4710, or visit our website at www.grantcountyweedboard.org.