Issue 5, May 21, 2010

On the Watch for Invasives

In today's era of globalization, the risk of invasive plant pest introductions is increasing. While a central geographic location and a superior transportation system afford Illinois a competitive advantage over many other states, these same factors make Illinois extremely vulnerable to accidentally or purposely introduced exotic pests. The U.S. imports nearly $400 billion in goods from the Pacific Rim; more than $125 billion from China alone. The busiest corridor in the U.S. for transporting intermodal containers by rail runs from Long Beach, CA to Chicago, Illinois, and Chicago in particular is home to the largest rail gateway in the nation, connecting eastern and western United States and Canada. An excellent highway system of 2,000 miles and 34,500 miles of other state highways make trucking of goods fast and efficient. More than 65 million travelers pass through Chicago's O'Hare International Airport annually. Illinois' 1,118 miles of navigable waterways, including the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers, make barge traffic an excellent option for shipment of grain to the Gulf of Mexico and shipment of imported steel and machinery upriver. However, any activity that allows the rapid movement of commodities also allows the development of fast moving pest pathways.

These fast moving pathways not only cut through Illinois' commodity regions, but its natural areas as well. Illinois woodlands, wetlands, and prairies may also be affected by the potential invasion of exotic pests. Many of the invasive threats have a large host range. Not only will a potential invasive pest affect the Illinois economy, but it may also affect the beauty of our landscape, the diversity of our environment, and lead to the destruction of natural habitats.

The primary goal of the Illinois Cooperative Agriculture Pest Survey program is to conduct surveys aimed at the early detection of invasive pests. While formal surveys are conducted each year, increasing the number of eyes and ears on the ground increases also our chances at finding that "needle in a haystack". In addition to weekly articles on invasive plants, we will be sharing information on other potential invasive threats we face here. To start learning more about these pests, please visit our Most "Unwanted" Invasive Species in Illinois (Adobe PDF).--Kelly Estes

Kelly Estes

Return to table of contents