Unsolicited packages sowing seeds of unrest

Provided photoThese seeds were sent to Huntingburg residents. Packets of unsolicited seeds from China or other countries can be brought to the Purdue Extension-Dubois County office for logging and disposal.

From Local Sources

Unsolicited packages are the sowing seeds of unrest.

According to a Purdue University press release, people across the country are receiving unidentified seeds from abroad.

The Office of Indiana State Chemist, located at Purdue, is urging Hoosiers not to plant or dispose of the seeds.

They could be spreading noxious weeds, plant diseases or invasive species.

“It might be tempting to put this into some soil to see what happens, but there’s a lot of damage that can cause,” Don Robison, seed administrator for the Office of Indiana State Chemist, said in the release. “We don’t know what all of these seeds are, and there is potential for doing serious harm to everything from your backyard garden to the commodity and specialty crops that are such an important part of the agricultural economy. The last thing we want is to spread a weed, invasive species or disease, and that’s a real risk if people plant these or simply throw them in the garbage.”

Per the release, the majority of seeds originated in China, with others coming from Malaysia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Indiana residents who receive the unsolicited packets are told not to open them and to instead mail them and any packaging materials to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Indiana office.

State and federal authorities will work together to identify and properly dispose of all the seeds and plant materials. Locally, readers may bring the seeds and packaging to the Purdue Extension-Dubois County office — located at 1482 Executive Blvd. in Jasper — for logging and proper disposal.

Agencies in other states have found the mystery plant species to be as diverse as known weed species, invasive clovers, Asian herbs, floral species, and many plants yet to be identified. Weed seeds, invasive species and disease pathogens can spread rapidly, costing millions of dollars annually for just a single plant or disease — and causing billions of dollars of impact overall each year.

The Purdue press release details the possibility that the seeds are part of a “brushing” campaign, in which online retailers send out unsolicited packages and use the fake sales to improve the seller’s ratings in the marketplace.

Still, state agricultural and environmental leaders aren’t taking any chances.

“Once a new disease or invasive species is out there, it’s a very costly problem,” Robison said. “It’s like trying to put a genie back in the bottle.”

Those who receive unsolicited seeds should keep them and their packaging (including the mailing label, but do not open the seed packet) and place all contents in a zip-top bag, then place the bag in an envelope or small box and mail it to: USDA APHIS, c/o State Plant Health Director Nick Johnson, 3059 N. Morton Street, Franklin, IN 46131.

If you can’t mail the items, do not dispose of them, the release reads. Keep the seeds, packaging and mailing label and contact the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Entomology & Plant Pathology at 866-663-9684, or DEPP@dnr.IN.gov.

Anyone who has already planted seeds should not dispose of the plants or soil. Contact the Indiana DNR Division of Entomology & Plant Pathology at the phone number and email address above. Never plant seeds of unknown origin.

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