In a sense, the network has built a nationwide team of plant pest experts, who work together to identify pests, teach each other from their personal fields of excellence and track the development of threats to agriculture or, potentially, human health. They also train Extension agents, crop advisors and master gardeners to identify potential disease and insect threats as "first detectors."
Having many people able to help track the development and dispersal of threats is a huge contribution to keeping agriculture and Americans safe, Stack says.
Because of the national system, when an ag producer, Extension agent or consultant detects a suspicious pest in a field, that information no longer stays isolated in that county or even in the state. The detection is fed into a national computer database, which allows experts to learn many things about the invader and often to forecast where it might move next. The data allows answers to questions such as: What is the path of the pest's dispersal since it was first detected" What are the geographical and climatic conditions where the pest has been found" What other parts of the country have a similar setting"
"The nature of agriculture has changed," Stack says. "We are now so dependent on the import and export of ag products that we need the capability for early detection and diagnostics. The longer it takes to detect introductions, the costlier it is to respond to them." By early detection, the lab buffers potential "ecological damage and economic damage through reduced yield and qualities, and public
|Contact: Evelyn Boswell|
Montana State University