An Update to the Mystery, Unsolicited packages of Seed

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An Update to the Mystery, Unsolicited packages of Seed – August 5, 2020

By Corrie Bowen
County Extension Agent
Wharton County

On Wednesday, July 29th I distributed a news release that brought attention to mystery, unsolicited seeds delivered by mail in tiny bags marked as jewelry.  The role of the USDA-Animal, Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is to safeguard U.S. agriculture and natural resources from the risks associated with the entry, establishment or spread of animal and plant pests and noxious weeds. Regulations prohibit or restrict the importation of living plants, plant parts and seeds for propagation.  Texas Department of Agriculture Commissioner, Sid Miller advised Texans: ““I am urging folks to take this matter seriously,” Miller said in a press release. “An invasive plant species might not sound threatening, but these small invaders could destroy Texas agriculture. TDA has been working closely with USDA to analyze these unknown seeds so we can protect Texas residents.”

Texas residents are now among those across the nation receiving mysterious seeds delivered by mail in tiny bags.   I’m aware of one Wharton County resident who received one of these packages of seed.  This resident did exactly what we recommend, and the seeds were not planted.  The seeds were kept in the package and sent on Monday of this week to the USDA Animal, Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) in Humble, Texas.  Another unsolicited package of seeds was reported yesterday to have been received by a resident in Richmond.  To date, packages containing these mystery seeds have also been received in Washington, Virginia, Utah, Kansas, Louisiana and Arizona.

Investigation is still ongoing, conducted by USDA, U.S. Customs and Borders, State Dept of Ag and some other federal agencies.  Some of the seeds have been identified: include cabbage, mustard, kale, mint, sage, morning glory (generally noted by USDA as ornamental, fruit and vegetable, herb, and weed species).  Further evaluation is made on some seeds for potential pathogens.

At this time, USDA-APHIS doesn’t have any evidence indicating this is something other than a “brushing scam” where people receive unsolicited items from a seller who then posts false customer reviews to boost sales. USDA is currently collecting seed packages from recipients and will test their contents and determine if they contain anything that could be of concern to U.S. agriculture or the environment.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) urges anyone who receives an unsolicited package of seeds to mail those seeds to the location listed below for your state. If more than one location is listed for your state, please select the location closest to your residence.

 

Instructions for Mailing Seed Packets:

  • Place the unopened seed packet and any packaging, including the mailing label, in a mailing envelope.
    • If the seed packets are open, first place the seeds and their packaging into a zip-lock bag, seal it, and then place everything into a mailing envelope.

 

  • Please include your name, address and phone number so that a State or Federal Agriculture Official can contact you for additional information, if needed.

 

  • In some cases, you may also submit your information online. Instructions are provided below if that is an option in your state.

 

 If you are unable to mail the package to one of the locations below, please contact your APHIS State plant health director to arrange a no-contact pick up or to determine a convenient drop-off location.

 

Texas residents should choose the closest USDA-APHIS location:

USDA-APHIS-PPQ
Attn: Elias Gonzalez
100 Los Indios Blvd.
Los Indios, Texas 78567
___________________________________________________

USDA-APHIS-PPQ
Attn: Gerardo Gonzalez
120 San Francisco, Bridge II Complex
Building 5, Room 505
Laredo, Texas 78045
__________________________________________________

USDA-APHIS-PPQ
Houston PIS
Attn: Alejandro Gammon Officer in Charge
19581 Lee Road
Humble, TX, 77338

___________________________________________________

 

 Updates on the unsolicited seed issue are posted on this USDA site.

https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/newsroom/stakeholder-info/sa_by_date/sa-2020/sa-07/seeds-china

 

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Corrie P. Bowen
County Extension Agent – Agriculture & Natural Resources
Wharton County
979-532-3310
cbowen@ag.tamu.edu

Mystery Seeds Arrive in Texas – Recipients advised to report unsolicited seed shipments

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Mystery seeds arrive in Texas
Recipients advised to report unsolicited seed shipments

JULY 28, 2020

Texas residents are now among those across the nation receiving mysterious seeds delivered by mail in tiny bags marked as jewelry. U.S. Department of Agriculture officials are on alert because these seeds are unsolicited.

Mystery seeds with labeling from China. (Source: Washington State Department of Agriculture)

Kevin Ong, Ph.D., Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service plant pathologist and director of the Texas Plant Disease Diagnostic Laboratory in College Station, said the concern arises because these packages have seeds in them instead of what is listed, and there is no information on what type they might be.

“We don’t know what kind of seeds they are,” Ong said. “Not knowing what the seeds are could potentially open our agriculture industry up to noxious weeds. If that proves to be the case, if they take hold, they could impact agriculture negatively.”

According to USDA-Animal, Plant Health Inspection Service, APHIS, the Plant Protection and Quarantine, PPQ, regulates the importation of plants and plant products under the authority of the Plant Protection Act. PPQ maintains its import program to safeguard U.S. agriculture and natural resources from the risks associated with the entry, establishment or spread of animal and plant pests and noxious weeds. These regulations prohibit or restrict the importation of living plants, plant parts and seeds for propagation.

“Seeds for planting can be produced all over the world and some you buy may come from other countries,” Ong said. “Companies that sell these seeds have the necessary permits. In this situation, the source is not readily known. What USDA wants to know is why are people getting these and are they noxious weeds.”

What to do with mystery seeds

Do not simply discard these seeds as they can potentially germinate and escape into nature, Ong said. All cases should be reported to USDA and all packages should be kept secure until USDA gives further instructions.

All incidences of receipt of these unrequested seeds in Texas should be reported to USDA-APHIS by sending an email to Carol Motloch, USDA-APHIS’ Texas PPQ state operations coordinator, at carol.m.motloch@usda.gov. Other states should send emails to SITCMail@usda.gov. The email should include a contact email and phone number as well as a description of package information. Sending a photo of the label and material would also be helpful.

“First, if you didn’t order it, we don’t want anyone planting these seeds or even opening the packages,” said Larry Stein, Ph.D., Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service horticulturist, Uvalde. “It could be a scam, or it very well could be dangerous.”

“We recommend anyone receiving the seeds send an email to USDA and then wait to see if they are asked to send them in,” Stein said. “We would not advise throwing them away until more information is known because they might contaminate the landfill.”

To date, packages containing these mystery seeds have also been received in Washington, Virginia, Utah, Kansas, Louisiana and Arizona.

Advice from Texas Department of Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller is that anyone receiving a foreign package containing seeds should not open it. Keep contents contained in their original sealed package.

“I am urging folks to take this matter seriously,” Miller said in a press release. “An invasive plant species might not sound threatening, but these small invaders could destroy Texas agriculture. TDA has been working closely with USDA to analyze these unknown seeds so we can protect Texas residents.”

An invasive species is an organism that is not native to a particular region. The introduction of this “alien species” can cause economic or environmental harm. In agriculture, an invasive species can destroy native crops, introduce disease to native plants and may be dangerous for livestock.

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Kay Ledbetter
806-677-5608
skledbetter@ag.tamu.edu

Kay Ledbetter is an associate editor/communication specialist for Texas AgriLife Research and Texas AgriLife Extension Service in Amarillo & Vernon. She worked 23 years at the Amarillo Globe-News as a general assignments reporter, farm and ranch reporter and editor, and assistant regional editor before joining the Texas A&M System in 2005. She earned a bachelor of science degree at West Texas State University in Canyon. She is responsible for writing news releases and feature articles from science-based information generated or provided by Research & Extension faculty at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Amarillo and at Vernon.

 

Corrie P. Bowen
County Extension Agent – Agriculture & Natural Resources
Wharton County
979-532-3310
cbowen@ag.tamu.edu

Rainwater Harvesting and Turf Management Online Training August 12

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Rainwater Harvesting and Turf Management Online Training August 12, 2020

Contact for More Information:

 

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service’s Healthy Lawns and Healthy Waters Program will host a residential rainwater harvesting and turf management training August 12 for Matagorda and Wharton Counties.

The free event will be online from 10 a.m.–2:30 p.m. with a half-hour lunch. Online registration is required. Attendees can RSVP online or contact John Smith, AgriLife Extension program specialist, College Station, at johnwsmith@tamu.edu or 979-204-0573. Those who RSVP to the event will receive updates, instructions to join the online meeting and materials related to the meeting via email.

The training is offered in collaboration with the Tres Palacios Watershed Partnership.

“The Healthy Lawns and Healthy Waters Program aims to improve and protect surface water quality by enhancing awareness and knowledge of best management practices for residential landscapes,” Smith said.

Dr. Becky Grubbs, AgriLife Extension urban water specialist, Dallas, said attendees will learn about the design and installation of residential rainwater harvesting systems as well as appropriate turf and landscape species based on local conditions and other practices.

“Management practices such as using irrigation delivery equipment, interpreting soil test results and understanding nutrient applications can help reduce runoff and make efficient use of applied landscape irrigation water,” Grubbs said.

Dr. Diane Boellstorff, AgriLife Extension water resource specialist in the soil and crop sciences department, College Station, said proper fertilizer application and efficient water irrigation can protect and improve water quality in area creeks and collecting rainwater for lawn and landscape needs reduces stormwater runoff.

Participants can have their soil tested as part of the training. The soil sample bag and analysis are free to Healthy Lawns and Healthy Waters Program participants.

Residents can pick up a soil sample bag with sampling instructions and the Urban and Homeowner Soil Sample Information Form, beginning July 7, at the AgriLife Extension offices in Matagorda County located at 2200 7th St., Bay City, TX or in Wharton County located at 315 E. Milam St., Wharton, TX. Bags containing residents’ soil samples should be returned to the location where they were obtained. Please do not mail the soil sample to the lab.

Attendees can submit a soil test by dropping their soil sample off to the AgriLife Extension offices in Matagorda or Wharton Counties prior to or by one week after the meeting.

Samples will be grouped into one submission and sent to the AgriLife Extension Soil, Water and Forage Testing Lab in College Station for routine analysis, including micronutrients, pH, conductivity, nitrate-nitrogen and other parameters.

The training will include information on how to understand soil test results and nutrient recommendations so residents can interpret results once the analysis is mailed to them.

Nathan Glavy, watershed coordinator for the Tres Palacios Watershed, will discuss updates on watershed protection plan activities to improve and protect water quality in this watershed.

For more information about the Tres Palacios Watershed Protection Plan, go to https://twri.tamu.edu/media/1449/tr-500.pdf

Funding for the Healthy Lawns and Healthy Waters Program is provided in part by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under assistance agreements (99614621, 99614624) to Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The project is managed by the Texas Water Resources Institute, part of Texas A&M AgriLife Research, AgriLife Extension and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M University.

 

HLHW Flyer August 12 Tres Palacios

 

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Corrie P. Bowen
County Extension Agent – Agriculture & Natural Resources
Wharton County
979-532-3310
cbowen@ag.tamu.edu

PVAMU CEP: 4-H Vision Board Activity

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Welcome to our 2020 Virtual Hero’s 4 Health Young Adult Summer Programming! We all know that setting and achieving goals is a life skill necessary for success and happiness. Creating a vision board helps our youth learn how to set goals, visualize their dreams, and stay focused on reaching their goals. Your vision board is all about you! Think outside the box and put your own twist to it! If you don’t have any magazines, feel free to draw on your vision board. There is no wrong or right way to do this activity. This self-esteem boosting activity is great to do at home with your family or with friends. Be sure to showcase your boards and be proud! After watching this video and filling out an evaluation, feel free to pick up a free card stock paper and glue stick from your local library in Wharton County (Wharton, East Bernard, El Campo, and Louise). Let’s send a big thank you to The Prairie View A&M Cooperative Extension Program and The Walmart Foundation for funding this video. Stay safe and healthy. Enjoy!!

*Link to evalution: https://4hcouncil.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_6mKjSM9F7ddj6kd?fbclid=IwAR3apxp5KobXrkXbxqlOxTF6tHjptn2XxHNz9WYJ3bRyiUPH_rVynR9hLuA

*We would like to see pictures of your project. Please tag us on facebook (Wharton County FCS and Wharton Library Systems), or email us at kashara.bell@ag.tamu.edu

 

 

Kashara L. Bell
Extension Agent, Wharton County
Prairie View A&M University Cooperative Extension Program
Family & Community Health
315 E. Milam St., Suite 112
Wharton, TX 77488

p: (979) 532-3371 | f: (979) 532-8863
kashara.bell@ag.tamu.edu

PVAMU CEP: 4-H Fruit Sushi

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Are you a sushi lover? Well this recipe puts the f in fun! It can be a snack or a breakfast treat. By mixing together fruit, yogurt and cereal in a playful way, you will add this snack to your favorites list. After watching this video and filling out an evaluation, you can pick up a free pair of chop sticks at your local library in Wharton County. Enjoy!!

 

Kashara L. Bell
Extension Agent, Wharton County
Prairie View A&M University Cooperative Extension Program
Family & Community Health
315 E. Milam St., Suite 112
Wharton, TX 77488

p: (979) 532-3371 | f: (979) 532-8863
kashara.bell@ag.tamu.edu