Unsolicited packages from China containing seeds have been arriving in Texas mailboxes lately, and officials are advising recipients to report them to the USDA.
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller has urged Texas to take extreme caution when receiving the packets from China, which have been mailed to multiple states, falsely labeled as jewelry, he said in a release.
“I am urging folks to take this matter seriously,” he said. “An invasive plant species might not sound threatening, but these small invaders could destroy Texas agriculture.”
An invasive species is an organism that is not native to a particular region, and the introduction of the foreign species can have great economic or environmental impact, including destroying native crops, introducing disease to native plants or even pose a danger to livestock, the release noted.
“You definitely don't want to dispose of the package,” advised Kim Benton, Cherokee County AgriLife Extension horticulturist. “Don't plant the seeds, either, but report it to APHIS,” the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service branch of the USDA.
“I know the USDA is doing testing of these items, to see if there is anything to be majorly concerned about, if there is some kind of potential for noxious weeds, which is why we need to be careful,” she said.
Kevin Ong, Ph.D., Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service plant pathologist and director of the Texas Plant Disease Diagnostic Laboratory in College Station, agreed.
According to “Mystery seeds arrive in Texas” (https://agrilifetoday.tamu.edu/2020/07/28/mystery-seeds-arrive-in-texas), Ong said “not knowing what the seeds are could potentially open our agriculture industry up to noxious weeds. If that proves to be the case, if they take hold, they could impact agriculture negatively.”
He added that all packages should be kept secure until USDA gives further instructions.
Texans who receive the mystery seeds can report the incident to USDA-APHIS by emailing Carol Motloch, USDA-APHIS’ Texas PPQ state operations coordinator, at email@example.com.
The email should include a contact email and phone number as well as a description of package information. Sending a photo of the label and material would also be helpful, the article stated.