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What Is a First Detector?

June 15, 2005

After the tragedy of September 11, 2001, a national network was established to enhance national agricultural security by quickly detecting introduced pests and pathogens. That network is called the National Pest Diagnostic Network, or NPDN. Illinois is part of the North Central region, or NCPDN. The University of Illinois Plant Clinic is the designated NCPDN diagnostic lab. You can find out more about this network at www.npdn.org. This network allows land-grant university diagnosticians and faculty, state regulatory personnel, and first detectors to efficiently communicate information, images, and methods of detection throughout the system in a timely manner.

What is a first detector? Throughout the United States, Extension service (CSREES) is offering first-detector training for individuals who are most likely to first encounter exotic pests in the field. County Extension agents, pest coordinators/managers, consultants, and Master Gardeners are among the most likely groups to be trained. The idea is to teach more people how to identify diseases, insects, and weeds that are unusual and may be a threat to production, economy, and even our safety. Some think that first-detector training is for disease detection alone. Only a small part of the training involves diseases. Emerald ash borer, soybean aphid, Asian long-horned beetle, and other insects are included in training in Illinois. Exotic weeds are also a part of the training. The course objectives are to create an awareness of agricultural bioterrorism and the mission of the NPDN, improve exotic pest recognition and early detection capabilities, improve identification skills of exotic and existing pests of concern, and provide proper protocols for sample submission of suspected exotic pests. In short, first detectors learn what is unusual for our area and then learn how to respond to possible finds.

This national program includes training in three basic training modules and updates on insect, disease, and weed problems that are new or of concern to our region, a certificate of completion, and listing on a national data base that will provide updates as new pest information is available. The training lasts a minimum of 2 hours and requires registration, pretesting and posttesting. Watch for opportunities to participate in first-detector training in your region. If you have questions, visit the first-detector Web site on the Southern Region NPDN location at http://spdn.ifas.ufl.edu/ or call your local University of Illinois Extension office.

Author: Nancy Pataky


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