The floriculture and nursery industry’s struggle with invasive species

Tuesday, April 5, 2016: 10:20 AM
Marlin (Pacific Beach Hotel)
Daniel Klittich , University of California, Davis, CA
Michael P. Parrella , Department of Entomology and Nematology, University of California, Davis, CA
New invasive species are estimated to cost more than 120 billion dollars annually in the United States and are one of the major threats to agriculture and urban ecosystems and to the natural environment.  They are acknowledged as being the second most important threat to biodiversity and endangered species, ranking behind habitat loss.  Depending on the nature of the pest and its status as an invasive (in California, categories A, B, C or Q), a species may trigger regulatory activities in agricultural, urban and natural settings.  The goal is to protect these various habitats and (with respect to agriculture) to keep trade opportunities open in the US and abroad.  Of course, regulatory actions (eradication or other suppression related programs) may involve area-wide treatment efforts that usually cut across different habitats, and when urban boundaries are encroached, this often provokes a negative public response.  Rightly or wrongly, the floriculture and nursery industry is often blamed for being the cause of the introduction and subsequent spread of many invasive species. Even when the industry tries to take corrective measures it is criticized by other commodities and consequently faces even greater scrutiny.  What appears to be lost (or ignored) in the entire process is that many of the regulatory actions put in place to eradicate and/or reduce invasive pests directly impact floriculture and nursery producers.  It is as if the ‘Typhoid Mary’ of agriculture (floriculture and nursery) can incur the economic damage inflicted by these quarantines as long as the ultimate goal of protecting broader agriculture and the natural environment is achieved.  This becomes a complex cost/benefits question:  can the cost borne by one sector of agriculture that ultimately benefits another be defended economically? While the floriculture and nursery industry has some control over importing invasive species, they too are being punished by a regulatory structure that seems to ignore the economic realities of their regulation. The floriculture and nursery industry is facing a monumental challenge as it struggles to remain solvent in a difficult economy only made worse by the increasing number of invasive species.  In this article we outline and expand these challenges and offer several scenarios that may play a role in providing some relief for the floriculture/nursery industry and offer protection for agriculture, urban and natural areas while keeping national and international trade open.