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Invasive Species & Pests

Every day, invasive species are threatening the health of our nation’s vital agricultural and natural lands.  Forests and rangelands are being infested, cropland production is being negatively impacted, streams and waterways are being choked with weeds, and  wildlife species are losing habitat.  These conditions are just a few of the negative impacts that will continue, or will become more severe, if successful actions are not taken to halt and/or reverse this trend.   

Invasive Plants

Invasive plants, designated by state or national agricultural authorities as threatening to agricultural and/or horticultural crops and/or humans and livestock, include everything from the fast-growing kudzu vine that blankets the eastern, southern and central states, to the Texas Blueweed of the southwest United States.  These, and  many other invasive plants take over America’s green spaces reducing economic productivity and upsetting ecological integrity.

Over the past several years, the rate of introduction of invasive plants has risen significantly, degrading renewable resources, diminishing the productive capacity of agriculture lands and degrading wildlife habitat.  Humans, often unknowingly, transport invasive species into new areas on cargo ships, boats, airplanes, automobiles, and other modes of transportation, including their own bodies.

NRCS works internally through its Plant Materials Centers and with many other partners to address the spread of plants that have been classified as noxious or invasive.

Invasive Animals

Invasive animals (both terrestrial and aquatic) are a type of invasive species and include animals that are threatening America’s habitats and human population.  Animals, such as the feral hog, European gypsy mothand sirex woodwasp, constitute a threat to the health and well-being of humans.

Overview and Selected Specific Examples of NRCS Activities to Address Invasive Species

NRCS helps producers to tackle invasive species problems in four major ways:
•    Technical and financial assistance to manage invasive species and pests;
•    Conservation initiatives that work at a landscape scale to address natural resource concerns, including invasive species;
•    Conservation Innovation Grants with partner entities to support development and implementation of innovative approaches and strategies to address invasive species; and
•    Plant Materials Center research geared toward invasive species management and restoring areas where invasive species have been removed.

Technical and Financial Assistance to Producers to Manage Invasive Species and Pests

NRCS technical assistance for invasive species begins with NRCS invasive species policy that:
•    directs NRCS to prevent the introduction of invasive species, to provide for their control, and encourage the use of native plants species in restoration activities,
•    encourages partnerships and local assistance for compiling State and regional invasive species lists and in detection of invasive species,
•    requires assisting with detection, inventorying, and monitoring on private lands as part of the conservation planning process, and
•    requires informing landowners of the presence of invasive species and providing appropriate conservation technical assistance.

NRCS Conservation Practices that directly address invasive species management and control include:
•    Brush Management (CP# 314),
•    Early Successional Habitat Development/Management (CP# 647),
•    Forest Stand Improvement (CP# 666),
•    Integrated Pest Management (CP# 595),
•    Prescribed Burning (CP# 338), and
•    Prescribed Grazing (CP# 528).  
Conservation Activity Plans (CAPs) are specialized, in-depth conservation plans that address specific resource issues.  CAP 154 - IPM Herbicide Resistance Weed Conservation Plan specifically addresses herbicide-resistant cropland weeds.  CAP 114 - Integrated Pest Management Plan uses a sustainable ecosystem-based approach for managing pests, including invasive species.


Plant Materials Centers

Plant Materials Centers (PMCs) in many areas of the country are directly involved in research and education efforts for the detection, control, and management of invasive species.  For example, the Pullman, Washington PMC has since 2007 focused on raising the awareness and identifying control methods for a relatively new invasive plant, Ventenata, which has the potential to degrade hay, pasture, and Conservation Reserve Plantings (CRP) if left unchecked. The Elsberry, Missouri PMC has a multi-year project underway with Lincoln University, located in Jefferson City, Missouri, to study the control of invasive shrubs in forest understory using ruminant animals (goats and sheep).  The results of this project will help inform land managers in Missouri and surrounding states about invasive species management options in forests and natural areas.

PMCs across the country have selected and released to the public over 350 native grasses, legumes, and wildflowers.  These selections are available commercially for use in NRCS conservation practices and programs on private lands, as well as by many State and Federal agencies on public lands.  PMCs have developed methods for the establishment of native species and selections to promote diverse plantings which are more resilient to colonization by invasive species.  These same native plants are also critical for replanting or restoring a site once invasive species are removed.