The COVID-19 pandemic by its very definition is a global event, resulting in a global effort to understand, treat and bring it under control. Top public health officials are using scientific data to drive policy, and that’s exactly how it should be.

The same logic applies when the health and safety of our lands, forests, gardens and fruit and vegetable crops are under attack.

Currently, invasive species – both plant and insect  – threaten much of the landscape, as well as our gardens in Maine, so much so that they often out-compete local native species for food and habitat. The emerald ash borer, the browntail moth, the Asian longhorned beetle, the spotted wing drosophila and the Swede midge are some invasive insects that have destroyed Maine forests and fruit and vegetable crops.

An example of just some of the challenges Maine foresters and farmers face: The emerald ash borer and longhorned beetle have destroyed trees in both urban and rural settings, altering local environments and ecosystems. The browntail moth causes skin rashes and respiratory concerns for many and come at a time of year when most of us would prefer to be outdoors enjoying our yards and the wonderful state of Maine. Spotted wing drosophila is a fruit fly that lays eggs in unripe fruit, such as raspberries and blueberries. The eggs hatch as small maggots inside the fruit and growers are forced to manage this pest to prevent damage. Swede midge is a piercing, sucking insect that damages brassica crops – broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower – preventing the plant from developing into a ripe and marketable product.

Comprehensive pest control solutions are necessary if we are to protect our food and ecosystems, and pesticides have an important role to play in conservation practices like integrated pest management, the policy of the state. That, along with coordinated response measures and proactive monitoring, can help us protect endangered species as well as our crops. After all, invasive species know no boundaries!

All labeled pesticide products on the market have gone through on average more than a decade of testing and been fully reviewed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state regulatory agency, the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. Both organic and non-organic growers use approved products only when and where appropriate and in the smallest amounts possible.

These well-tested chemistries are also used on our golf courses, providing an economic boost to our state, and on athletic fields, maintaining them in playable shape and keeping them safe for those using them.

Recently, administrators at a Portland high school requested a waiver so that they could treat their athletic fields with the necessary pesticide to combat a sod webworm infestation in their fields. After jumping through hoops to get final approval, the school was bullied into a decision not to, because of uninformed animus directed at them. And it wasn’t the first school to go through the time-consuming and painful waiver process.

It’s important to remember that first and foremost, turf managers are environmental stewards of the grounds they tend to, calibrating their applications with consideration for the potential consequences. For instance, if weather promises an intense downfall of rain, they won’t apply pesticide right beforehand, because that would be detrimental to the land.

Just like we enjoy access to the most advanced medical treatments (think pharmaceuticals and vaccines to treat disease and illnesses), we should embrace the science and regulatory process that brings agricultural solutions to market safely.

Much like using over-the-counter medicine to treat a headache or a prescription to treat diagnosed ailments, we use mosquito repellent around our patios, allowing us to enjoy a warm summer evening, and DEET to protect against ticks and debilitating Lyme disease.

Implementing a science-based and integrated approach to manage invasives and other pests only makes sense. It benefits the environment, and protects our crops, investments, natural resources and green spaces for future generations.

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