US: April brings the start of nursery inspection season

Spring is upon us, and with it comes the start of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ nursery inspection season.

Inspections began formally on April 1, and are carried out by the Plant Industry division’s Plant Protection section. Inspections are fundamentally about keeping North Carolina safe from invasive species, and the nursery program’s goal is to facilitate the movement of nursery stock while preventing the introduction and spread of insects, plant diseases and invasive weeds through the movement of plant material.

Responsibility for this falls on the nursery inspectors who cover 19 regions across North Carolina. April Bauder is the Central Region Field Certification Specialist, responsible for inspecting nurseries in Durham, Orange, Person and Wake counties. She said that inspections both help nurseries sell their products nationally and internationally while also protecting North Carolina and other states from dangerous plant pests.

“We have two types of nurseries licenses for businesses that grow nursery stock; registered and certified. Registered nurseries are less than one acre and only sell within North Carolina, while certified nurseries are larger than an acre and ship outside the state,” she said. “Especially with the certified nurseries, it’s important to know the regulations of the states you’re selling to, and we work with growers to make sure they’re following those guidelines.”

Sometimes that interaction is as simple as pointing out minor pests like aphids or tea scale, in which case inspectors may simply make the growers aware of the pest and discuss possible treatment options.

Plant Industry division staff make control recommendations following the NC Agricultural Chemicals Manual published by North Carolina State University. In the case of state or federal regulated pests – more dangerous pests which the department is actively working to mitigate or keep out of the state – inspectors cannot give as much leeway. One example of such a regulatory pest is Phytophthora ramorum, a plant pathogen which causes the Sudden Oak Death disease.

“In the case of regulatory pests, we follow strict treatment guidelines prescribed in state or federal treatment protocols. For imported fire ants, or Japanese Beetle, for example, we are required to follow the USDA-APHIS-PPQ guidelines for treatment. “If it’s a common unregulated pest like tea scale, we try not to tell them exactly what they have to treat with. But, for example if I’m doing an inspection and I see something that looks like Phytophthora ramorum, and I send in a sample for testing and it comes back positive for this destructive disease not found in NC, we then have to take a much stronger action like destruction to prevent the spread of the disease to NC forests.

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