Spring is here, y’all, and everything is on the move around our state, nation and world. That includes plants, people and pests.

I wish I had a dollar for every time someone told me, “We never had this problem when I was young.” Well, back then, the world was not so crowded, fast paced or nearly as small figuratively.

My grandparents never left the backwoods of Chesterfield County, and I thought McBee was the center of the world. Most people still don’t realize that Hartsville, Darlington and Florence are just suburbs of McBee (ha).

Today people and plants move around a lot, and all kinds of pests like to hitchhike a ride to your farm. April has been declared “Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month,” because this is a critical time when damaging invasive species known as Hungry Pests emerge and are spread in the things people pack and move, such as outdoor items like grills, gardening equipment, wading pools, bicycles or patio furniture. Always thoroughly clean by removing soil, egg masses and insects from these items and all vehicles when taking trips or moving.

Hungry Pests are a real problem. They attack trees, plants and agriculture, costing the United States approximately $40 billion each year in damages and expensive eradication and control efforts.

Their movement is controlled by a part of USDA called Aphis (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service). To learn more, visit hungrypests.com. This website includes photos and descriptions of each Hungry Pest, and a Pest Tracker, to find those that are present in your state. To report a pest or contract your local Aphis office, visit aphis.usda.gov/planthealth/sphd.

To be perfectly honest, helping farmers control pest problems is one of my main jobs and one of the main reasons to have county agents. Preferably, I like to look at it in a different light as IPM (integrated pest management). IPM is using all types of techniques to control insects and diseases. Some of my favorite ways are resistant varieties, variable planting dates, adjusting fertility, cultivating beneficials, sanitation, rotation, etc., but last of all and only when needed, chemical controls. In other words, chemical controls are only used as a last resort. I do my best and help as many farmers as possible, but no one knows it all or can do it all.

Therefore, to all y’all row crop farmers, I would like to introduce our new agronomy/row crop agent for Florence and Williamsburg counties, Heather C. Benjamin. Feel free to contract her at hrcolem@clemson.edu or at 843-519-2408.

The Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to people of all ages, regardless of race, color, gender, religion, national origin, disability, political belief, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or family status and is an equal opportunity employer.

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