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Mini-Blog: Invasive Species

Mini-Blog: Invasive Species

It seems as if the year 2020 can’t seem to get worse, but every time I turn around, there it is, even worse. For small islands like that of Hawaii, 2020 has been particularly difficult to navigate. In addition to the threat of COVID-19 and the ravaging effects it could have on a small disconnected island such as itself, climate change has made the year even more challenging. 

Invasive species are increasingly detrimental on small island communities like Hawaii, who have delicate ecosystems that are deeply connected through each organism and their participating contributions to the islands. 

Due to the rapid increase of climate change, these invasive species are being given more advantageous opportunities to thrive and exist in these spaces.

In June of 2020, National Geographic Magazine published an article highlighting the different variables that have led to the blooming invasive population of the coqui. The brown tree frog is native to the island of Puerto Rico, where it is cherished and celebrated.

But on the island of Hawaii, this frog is responsible for the decimation of entire species of insects, birds, and plants. Hawaii has developed in such an isolated and delicate manner with unique properties that are a result of the distance between themselves and the mainlands. 

As a result, when invasive species infiltrate quiet and isolated environments the impacts on the native species are devastating and tremendous. 

But, Hawaii isn’t the only state whose National Forests have been struggling as a result of invasive species. Nearly every National Forest in the United States has been facing a challenging reality of depleted and changed ecosystems as a direct result of invasive species. 

It is estimated that more than 6,500 foreign species exist within the United States. To resolve this issue, the United States Department of Agriculture spends around $2.5 Billion dollars annually to combat invasive species.  

Despite the enormous bill that the U.S. Department of Agriculture foots annually to fight against invasive species, it isn’t enough. National Park workers need more than money to combat these species. They need your help! 

When you’re out in nature and see an invasive species be sure to report it, and if you know the local capturing and eradication procedures, do your part to help eliminate the problem. 

To report an invasive species visit: https://www.eddmaps.org/

But, that isn’t all you can do. Using and suggesting compliance programs, such as Plant Sentry™, can help growers protect their customers and environments from numerous invasive species.

Do your part and suggest Plant Sentry™ and report invasive species!



Citations:

[1] Photograph courtesy Dr. Steve A. Johnson, & Linkel, P. (2020, June 29). National parks are being overrun by invasive species. Retrieved September 21, 2020, from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/destinations/north-america/united-states/national-parks/invasive-species-threaten-native-plants-and-animals-visitors-can-help/

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Mini-Blog: Compliance

Mini-Blog: Compliance

Compliance to some growers seems like it’s an exclusive right, reserved only for the large, nationwide operations with deep wallets. In our business, we’ve heard everything from it’s only for “small package” shipping, to it’s only for “wholesale” growers. But, really, it’s for both!

Compliance is often misunderstood as something that is one or the other when that’s simply not the case. 

As the importance of compliance continues to become more urgent, programs throughout the United States have been developed to help nurseries of each and every size. 

There is perhaps nowhere in this great nation that values the importance of compliance more than the West Coast. Specifically, California. Anyone in the industry can tout for the rigorous legislative initiatives the state has taken to protect their agriculture and garden industries. 

Plant Right

To aid in this initiative, a program was developed in 2005 to help combat the invasive plant species sales in the state of California. The program focused on both the benefits to businesses, as well as the environment. The program is called Plant Right and has an extensive list of allies ranging from American Hort all the way to the Nature Conservancy. 

The impressive relationships that this program has been able to forge speaks to the necessity and value that growers and their community gain from their initiatives. Through both educational and purchasing opportunities, the program provides a comprehensive, compliant approach to invasive plant species throughout the state. 

SANC

Outside of invasive plant species and within all 50 states, there is a great need for compliance for growers. What if, grow locations could certify their operations and practices showing the industry they’re compliant?

This is where a program, called SANC, steps in. 

SANC stands for Systems Approach to Nursery/Greenhouse Stock Certification and was developed through partnerships between more than 20 state agencies and the National Plant Board (NPB). 

The program focuses specifically on the cleanliness of the facility and growing better plants. Through identifying critical points in their operation, growers can better protect areas where pests and hazards have the opportunity to enter their growing locations.

Once the critical points are identified, the growers implement a “Best Management Practice” to reduce their risk and exposures. These efforts target points of entry, shipping locations, and points of production where the plants may be under increased risk.   

The program is currently being tested in 18 different facilities throughout 14 different states. It works for large, small, and even local growers in the U.S. The SANC certification can work for everything from healthier plants locally to shipping plants between states. 

Plant Sentry

While the SANC certification is great and offers a number of ways for growers to increase their compliance efforts, there are still a number of areas of compliance that are still left exposed.   

This is how Plant Sentry came to be. 

Plant Sentry’s development was inspired by SANC and its initiatives but wanted to offer even more comprehensive compliance. And thus Plant Sentry was born!

While SANC focuses on the facility of the plants, Plant Sentry focuses on the plants themselves. The Plant Sentry proprietary database contains a plant’s restrictive information applied to the different states throughout the U.S. and Canada. 

The three main targeted areas of compliance are disease, pests, and invasive plant species. Through our compliance knowledge, we’re able to effectively evaluate your plant selections and advise on the potential risks each of them face. Through consultation services, we offer the extended opportunity to develop your compliance efforts and obtain proper certifications for each plant.

Additionally, emergency response is offered 24/7 to aid in navigating any outbreak or potential risk. Our expert compliance team prioritizes each client’s needs to ensure the best possible outcome for the plants and their growers. 

No matter how you choose to begin your compliance journey, we’re glad you’ve started! As the industry continues to progress, growers are continuing to move towards meeting the market’s sustainable demands. 

Compliance is a sustainable effort. 

As your company considers its compliance journey, we hope to hear from you personally! However, we understand and appreciate that every journey is different. We stand by our suggestions for the other programs mentioned in this article and can only hope that it eventually will lead you to us. So if we don’t hear from you first, we look forward to when we do!

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Fresh Fruits & Vegetables Month

Fresh Fruits & Vegetables Month

As the weather continues to warm and the sun stays out longer, fruits and vegetables are growing bigger every day. Which is perfect, because June is National Fresh Fruits & Vegetables Month

While the basis of this month is to focus on the health aspects that fruits and vegetables provide to the human diet. We can’t help but stop to wonder, what determines the health of our fruits and vegetables? And who’s checking up on this?

Piqued Your Curiosity?

Where our produce comes from is commonly related to what store we bought it at and where that store is located. Until the Coronavirus pandemic in 2020, the concept of how that produce got to the store, was lost on many of the people who ate it. And sure, we know it comes from a farm, and that farmers have to grow it, but where are these farms located? And what are their growing practices? How do I know that the health of their plants is going to mean health for my body?

Finding the Answers

Unless you belong to the farming and gardening industry the idea of plant sourcing may be outside your realm, simply because you don’t see it. But, that’s part of the reason why Plant Sentry™ is here. We exist to safeguard the shipment of plants, and well, fruits and vegetables are plants too. 

So this month, we’d like to help answer some of these questions for you and give you some tools you need to answer these questions for yourself.

Where Do They Come From?

While California leads the U.S. states in domestic agriculture, the other 48 states make sure to do their part when it comes to farming too. 2 million other farms to be exact. While this seems like a lot, and perhaps that it should be enough, what may be surprising about this is that only about 8% of farms market their foods locally [2]. 

Many fruits and vegetables grown in the U.S. are only in season for a few weeks out of a calendar year.

The Fruits of Labor After the Seasons Over

Once the U.S. growers finish out their seasons for fruits and vegetables the American consumer doesn’t end their want/need for the produce. Instead, the U.S. market imports fresh fruits and vegetables from all around the world to meet American consumers’ demand.In 2012 it was calculated that roughly 6.9 million metric tons of fruits and vegetables were shipped to U.S. Distribution Centers nationwide. [2]  

So Are They Healthy?

The U.S. market for fruits and vegetables can be divided into 2 categories, fresh and processed. Deciding which market the farmer grows for determines how the produce is grown. If it is grown for the processed market, then the goods will meet the standards of that market. If the produce is grown for the fresh market, then they will adhere to the standards of the fresh market. The USDA monitors both of these markets and lists their standards for both categories here. [4]

When it comes to the health of fruits and vegetables determining their values can be a little bit more challenging, because it requires a closer look. Fruits and vegetable benefits are evaluated by the nutrient density of the good and can vary slightly based on growth conditions. 

The way the food is prepared and handled will also determine the overall nutrient density of the fruits and vegetables. But generally speaking, it is safe to follow the nutritional evaluations of raw fruits and vegetables from the FDA. [1]

Beyond the Label

Unless you’re purchasing goods from a local grower, knowing more finite information about the produce your consuming can be challenging. While the FDA requires the listing of the country on the stickers for fruits and vegetables, beyond that is considered proprietary business information.[5]

The Green Industry Role

In the Green Industry, it can be challenging to find out information if you aren’t on the inside of the situation. When there are disease and pest outbreaks, our government officials often settle for only listing the affected state and not the company name. This is no different when it comes to the agricultural side of things and handling the safety of food.

In order to protect international business relationships, the same standard of discretion is applied to the produce industry. As Americans continue to populate and rely on these resources, it is the utmost responsibility of the government officials regulating these goods to protect not only those eating them but also those who grow them.

The Plant Sentry™ Role

Being a member of the Green Industry can sometimes be challenging. While we at Plant Sentry™ primarily focus on the health of plants and their shipping and restrictions requirements, we know that every piece of the puzzle is important.

How consumers purchase and select their goods plays into the giant game of chess that impacts the availability consumers have. 

This is why we do and encourage everything we can in shipping and compliance of regulations to help growers be successful so that consumers can keep their variety.



  • Citations
    1. Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. (n.d.). Nutrition Information for Raw Fruits, Vegetables, and Fish. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/food/food-labeling-nutrition/nutrition-information-raw-fruits-vegetables-and-fish
    2. Fast Facts About Agriculture & Food. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.fb.org/newsroom/fast-facts
    3. Fischetti, M. (2013, September 1). U.S. Demand for Fruits and Vegetables Drives Up Imports. Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/us-demand-for-fruits-and-vegetables-drives-up-imports
    4. Grades and Standards. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ams.usda.gov/grades-standards
    5. Grossman, E. (2014, September 24). Want to find out where your fruit was grown? Good luck. Retrieved from https://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/09/fruit-veggies-produce-origins-trade-secret/

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    Digging Up the “Dirt” On Geraniums

    Digging Up the “Dirt” On Geraniums

    Everything You Need to Know About the Ralstonia Outbreak

    As the month of April came to a close the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) confirmed the detection of Ralstonia solanacearum race 3 biovar 2 (R3bv2) in a greenhouse in Michigan. The infection was discovered in a species of geraniums identified as the Fantasia ‘Pink Flare’ variety.

    It has been roughly sixteen years since this bacteria was last found on U.S. soil and since then has garnered itself the classification of a potential bioterrorism agent against the United State’s agriculture. In 2004, Florida’s tomato crops were threatened by the disease and led to the destruction of over 4 million plants to prevent its spread.

    How It Can Impact the U.S.

    This specific strain of Ralstonia solanacearum has the potential to impact several important agricultural crops. However, it is potatoes and tomatoes that are at the greatest risk from this disease. Both agricultural crops are common hosts of the disease and can wipe out the entire crop with infection before the symptoms can be identified.

    The bacterial wilt made its way to the U.S, this time, through an infected shipment of plants from Guatemala. Since its discovery, the foreign greenhouse responsible for the infection has voluntarily ceased all incoming and planned shipments to the United States. With an additional 288 greenhouses in 39 states who also received cuttings from this grower, APHIS has been working tirelessly to prevent the spread of this infection.

    Who & What They’re After

    The plant is targeted for eradication is the Fantasia ‘Pink Flare’ geranium. As the USDA moves through greenhouses affected by this disease they will go through and sample, isolate and destroy any of the species. Due to the spread of the infection that can occur between host plants and non-host plants, the USDA will also target other geranium species in the suspected greenhouses for the same methods of control.

    How Does This Happen?

    While the majority of Ralstonia solanacearum strains infect tropical and subtropical climates, the host of the bacteria ranges into the hundreds and can be located in agricultural goods around the world. It is in colder tropical climates that R3bv2 develops. The development of this disease is majorly identified in the highland, cooler tropical, parts of Africa, South America, and Asia. 
    In an AmericanHort webinar, hosted for awareness of the disease, Professor Caitilyn Allen of Plant Pathology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison identified that the infectious tract for this disease is through the water-transporting xylem vessels. In a series of images she showed how, on a microscopic level, the bacteria infiltrates tomato stems and quickly takes over the healthy cells of the plant.

    What To Look For

    The most common symptom of this bacterial infection is stunting in plant growth. However, this disease can also be expressed by yellowing and wilting of the leaves, and eventually death of the plant. The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension states in their reporting of the bacteria that, “Symptom expression is favored by high temperatures (85°F-95°F). Symptoms of this disease may progress rapidly after infection, but plants may remain without symptoms for extended periods.”

    The lack of symptoms that are in hosts makes the danger of this disease all the more pressing to the U.S. Agriculture. With the disease leading to a potato farmer’s nightmare, brown rot, it is truly a team effort of the industry to keep this disease from spreading.

    It is additionally important to note that while there are symptoms that can help in identifying the disease, there are also a number of ornamental plants and Nightshade family weeds that can host the disease without symptoms.

    Symptoms of Ralstonia solanacearum:

    Here are a few ways to identify if your plants may possibly be infected:

    • Upward rolling of the leaves, that eventually leads to their collapse
    • When squeezing the stem of a suspected infected plant, a milky white ooze comes out
    • Placing a suspected infected plant stem in a glass of water and after 15 minutes milky streaking of bacteria is coming out from the stem

    How to Move Forward

    While there are testing options available, they aren’t 100% accurate in many cases and can be quite expensive to carry out. Instead, the USDA is recommending that if you believe your plants to be infected by the disease, or that you have received a plant of the known infected variety to reach out to the contact facility or report the infection through the USDA State Plant Health Directors page. They will schedule a date to come out to the facility and inspect the plants, as well as obtain some first-hand information. Following their scheduling, they will issue their “Emergency Action Notification” document with a more detailed version of the following procedures.

    It is asked that you hold all plants of the Fantastia ‘Pink Flare’ variety, as well as any other geraniums or known host plants of the disease. This qualifies towards any host plants that may have been shipped between 10/2019 until 04/2020. The USDA also asks that you hold any plant material that may have been exposed or come in contact with the suspected infectious plants or any materials exposed to it.

    The suspected material will then be tested. If test results are negative, then the items are free to be moved again. However if the material is found to be contaminated, then the items will be destroyed and the area disinfected through means that have been outlined to be acceptable by the EAN procedures of the USDA.

    The Ending Our Industry Deserves

    While growers and inspectors seek out infestation to destroy this disease once again from U.S. soil, it is noteworthy to mention that 55 Canadian greenhouses have also been infected from this incident.

    As we look to the future from this occurrence, many are wondering how they can protect their crops from something like this happening again? Our answer is simple, Plant Sentry™.

    When infections like Ralstonia solanacearum are discovered, Plant Sentry™ works to immediately notify our clients of the potential risks their plants face. This communication is essential in helping to slow the spread of the disease from the grower to the vendor. 


    Early notification provided by Plant Sentry™ can reduce the potential exposure of the disease and may prevent the elimination of plants due to quarantine and destruction procedures by officials. We understand that every dollar spent should equal a dollar saved. At Plant Sentry™ we apply that mindset to protect your bottom line when a disease shows up to your nursery door. It is our responsibility as an industry to protect one another from the potential danger that a disease like this can cause. With Plant Sentry™ on your side, protection gets a whole lot easier!

    To learn more about our efforts be sure to view our other blogs!



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    VIRUSES & VIRAL PLANTS Pt. 3

    VIRUSES & VIRAL PLANTS Pt. 3

    As we’ve made our way through the past few blogs, we’ve examined the complex nature that viruses have. We’ve gone in-depth into the realm of viruses and examined two of the most unique virus families in biology. Now, we’ll examine the third and final family of viruses that have the capacity to infect the Animalia and Plantae Kingdoms

    The first of these viruses was the Bunyaviridae and the second was the Rhabdoviridae.  The third of these rare viruses that we will be discussing is the Reoviridae family.

    As we come to a close on our examinations of rare plant viruses that can infect humans we take one more close look at the dangers these species present.

    Reoviridae

    The Basics

    Reoviridae has 2 subfamilies that have 15 genera that divide out into a total of 75 different virus species that infect a variety of hosts, including plants and animals. This virus family is the largest family of double-stranded RNA viruses, and perhaps the most understood of their kind. They have been identified in a wide variety of organisms, found in everything from an arachnid, a plant, fungi, reptiles, mammals, and more. 

    In humans, this viral family is responsible for the commonly known Rotavirus. The Rotavirus is passed from fecal matter being transmitted orally through contaminated objects and surfaces. This transmission encourages easier spread amongst children and infants. 

    But the Reoviridae viruses aren’t exclusive to humans. As mentioned above, the variety of hosts for these viruses almost seems unlimited, even infecting fish! But our major concern is the relationship these viruses have with plants and how we can prevent their spread.

    Affect on Plants

    Out of the abundance of Reoviridae viruses that exist, there are 3 genera that have approximately 14 different species that infect plants.  These three genera are Phytoreovirus, Oryzavirus, and Fijivirus

    These viruses are believed to originate in ancient invertebrates and are developmentally reliant on the vectors of leafhoppers. Without the hoppers the virus could not reproduce in most cases and would die off completely. But, with the hoppers as the host, they are able to spread their diseases to different plant vectors. Due to the lack of spread through seed, many of these viruses reproduce through larvae of the hoppers and not just in the host themselves.

    These viruses are mainly a threat to what are known as cereal crops and include rice, maize, sorghum, and barley. Each variation of these viruses affect each crop a little differently, but overall causes severe damage. As we examine these three different viral genera we should keep in mind how each of them could impact our environment if not properly managed.

    Phytoreovirus

    This virus produces the commonly known diseases of Rice Dwarf Virus and Rice Gall Dwarf Virus. Plants that are infected with these viruses exhibit defined stunting, more tillering, and leaves that are short and dark with chlorotic specks. The plants most often survive until harvest, but at that time it is often discovered that the flower containing the grain is empty.

    The damage from these viruses are mostly experienced in Southeastern Asia, but that doesn’t mean it can’t affect other areas of the world. Diseases can often go unnoticed with little symptoms to the plant until harvest time.

    This furtiveness can make the management of these pests and diseases almost impossible if not properly maintained. Cleanliness is of the utmost importance when managing stock plants. As part of Plant Sentry’s mission, we maintain constant vigilance on diseases like these to keep our growers informed and their plants healthy.

    Orzyavirus

    The second genera of the Reoviridae virus family to infect plants is the Orzyavirus. One of its species is the Rice Ragged Stunt Virus. This disease is transmitted by the Brown Planthopper and reduces the amount of plant density and grain production. This virus is most commonly found in tropical Asian climates where the conditions are optimal for continuous habitation of the Brown Planthopper and rice to be grown all year long.

    Much like the Phytovirus the threat that this disease poses to crop quality and density is significant. While it primarily occurs in other parts of the world outside the United States, it still has the potential to impact our food supply and the plants that we grow. It is oftentimes that once a species makes its way to our country that a virus or disease mutates and infects its new surroundings differently than it had in its original habitat.

    Fijivirus

    The last genera of this viral family is the Fijivirus. In recent years these viruses have primarily been found targeting rice production in China. But many years before, they were found to be ruining sugar crops in Australia

    Currently, the Southern Rice Black-Streaked Dwarf Virus is transferred by the White-Backed Planthopper and causes damage to rice crops. The earlier the plant is infected, the more damage that is done.

    Similar to the other diseases we’ve reviewed today, this virus can cause dwarfing, stiffening of leaves, lack of grain production, and increased tillering. The infected plant leaves are often dark and short with some ruffling on the edges.  

    Like so many other diseases, every component of its management can potentially affect its neighbor. As we’ve seen in recent months, all it takes is one vector to carry disease to a new environment and create a dramatic impact. Habitats and ecosystems may vary from place to place, but many of these species are genetically designed to thrive on its unsuspecting victims.

    How It Affects You

    As we come to a close with our examinations of viruses, we hope that this has made you more curious and considerate of how viruses can infect our world. Where we once thought viruses to be limited, maybe now we’re a little more open-minded on just how easily they can spread. As the world reemerges from its quarantine cocoon, we recognize that our perception of viruses has changed, hopefully for the better.

    At Plant Sentry we plan to use our new-found knowledge to help our growers achieve optimal plant health. We work around the clock to provide our clients with the highest level of awareness against disease and pests. Through our expertise in disease management we know the best practices that will make work easier on growers for seasons to come. In this ever-changing world, there has never been a better time to do the right thing and keep your plants safe and healthy. To learn more about our practices visit the Our Services page and see why what we’re doing makes a BIG difference.