Artist's rendering of new ARS faclility in Sidney, Mont.
(Image courtesy Bernard Johnson Corp. High-resolution image not
USDA Quarantine Facility to Help Control Invasive
Pests By Erin
Peabody May 4, 2005
SIDNEY, Mont., May 4--U.S. Department of
Agriculture officials broke ground here today for a quarantine-greenhouse
complex. The new facility will allow government scientists to develop
pesticide-free ways to control invasive plants currently threatening millions
of acres of native rangelands across the western United States.
"The future complex includes a new greenhouse facility and will
provide researchers with the appropriate lab environment and resources needed
to safely study beneficial insects and other biological control agents," said
J. Brown, agriculture deputy undersecretary for Research, Education and
"Invasive plants, including saltcedar, whitetop and leafy spurge, have
the potential to displace native vegetation and siphon away precious water
resources. They're also detrimental to the livestock and natural wildlife that
depend on western rangelands," Brown said.
The planned 2,950-square-foot quarantine facility and
4,000-square-foot greenhouse spaceestimated to cost $2.8 million dollars
to constructwill augment the existing
Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory (NPARL) in Sidney that opened in
Senator Conrad Burns of Montana spoke at the 1 p.m. groundbreaking
Sixteen scientists and 20 support staff will use the future laboratory
and greenhouse facilities to study candidate insects and plant pathogens that
show promise against hardy rangeland weed invaders. Entomologists and other
specialists will be able to rear imported natural enemies of weeds, extract
their DNA and evaluate their potential impacts on host and nonhost plants all
under one roof. This should expedite the process by which the scientists test
and obtain approval to release organisms for use as biological control agents.
In addition to sharing research findings with producers and the
agricultural industry, NPARL also maintains close ties with regional land-grant
universities, which will also benefit from the research made possible by
completion of the new facilities.
Sidney scientists have already made solid headway in controlling the
invasive weed known as leafy spurge. In 1997, they kicked off the agency's
first 5-year, areawide integrated pest management program targeting a rangeland
weed. This biologically based program has successfully knocked down leafy
spurge populations by 10 to 80 percent at most of the sites where
spurge-feeding flea beetles were released, saving producers thousands of
dollars and allowing native vegetation to recover.
Other NPARL research is focused on insect pests-such as grasshoppers
and Mormon crickets-which in outbreak years cause extensive damage, destroying
croplands, native vegetation and ornamental plants. Another major initiative is
to investigate irrigation methods that can support value-added crops in the
Montana-Dakota region, while conserving valuable water and soil resources.