Learning for Life: Pest scouts ready to help

Last November I wrote about a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant, which would result in hiring four part-time pest scouts who would visit farms and ranches in Alaska to teach farmers how to scout their fields, pastures and animals for pests. The term “pest” refers to diseases, insects and weeds, and these pests could be native or introduced. I asked people to participate in a survey that asked about what their most troublesome pests were in their gardens, fields and animals.

There was a good response to the survey from throughout the state and it has helped us to understand which pests are most troublesome to farmers around Alaska. We have hired the four part-time pest scouts and they have been trained on the diseases, insects and weeds they can expect to find as well as the ones that could be big problems for Alaska, if they should establish in the state. The training included a hands-on practical for looking for lice and ticks on beef cattle as well as collecting fecal samples to look for internal parasites.

There are pest scouts now in the Cooperative Extension offices of Kenai (907-262-5824), Palmer (907-745-3360), Fairbanks (907-474-1530) and Delta Junction (907-895-4215). They will be contacting farms, ranches and greenhouses for permission to visit and teach pest scouting techniques and the reporting process for when the farmer finds something of concern. If you are a farmer or rancher, you can request a pest scout to come visit. This also includes people growing peonies and other plants for sale or people who have a high tunnel or greenhouse that is used to produce products for sale.

In addition to the pest scout funding described above, some other grants were funded that will expand the scope of scouts’ work and increase the numbers of hours they can work. These grants come from partnerships with the Alaska Division of Agriculture, U.S. Forest Service and the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service. Scouts will be setting traps to collect gypsy moths in places where they might enter Alaska. They will also trap exotic wood-boring insects that could cause serious problems in Alaska if they should get here. Another grant is for helping us collect native lygus bugs and thrips on peony farms in Alaska. We are working with seven cooperating farms this summer and plan to expand to most peony farms next year.

We all know that Alaska is amazing for a variety of reasons. For me, one of the best things about Alaska is the health of our ecosystem and our low number of exotic pests compared to all the other states in the United States. For my part, I want to keep it this way and maybe even reduce the number of pests that are here now. Unfortunately, I cannot do this alone. Fortunately, there are many people willing to help and now we have some financial support that can help us reduce pest problems.

The first step is identification and we are doing that with your help. In the past we have waited for people to come to us and tell us about their pest problems. Now we are actively visiting growers and teaching them how to scout for pests. From here, the next step will be working on controlling the pests and hopefully doing some eradication. In the following year, we will also be conducting pest detector trainings for the public. As we get that training set up, look for the announcement in this column.

Enjoy our planting season and be on the look out for pests that are causing problems, especially those you have not seen before.

Steven Seefeldt is the Tanana District agriculture and horticulture agent for the Cooperative Extension Service, a part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, working in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He can be reached at 907-474-2423 or ssseefeldt@alaska.edu.

More in Life

Dillon Diering and Sarah Overholt dance while the Tyson James Band performs during the 45th Annual Moose Pass Summer Solstice Festival in Moose Pass, Alaska, on Saturday, June 15, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
‘We’re about community’

Moose Pass throws 45th annual Summer Solstice Festival

This summer salad is sweet and refreshing, the perfect accompaniment to salty meat and chips. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Fueling happy memories

Fresh salad accompanies an outdoors Father’s Day meal

Minister’s Message: The way life will be

“Is this the way it was all meant to be? Is this what God had in mind when He created us?”

Photo provided by Art We There Yet
José Luis Vílchez and Cora Rose with their retired school bus-turned-art and recording studio.
‘It’s all about people’

Traveling artists depict Kenai Peninsula across mediums

Promotional Photo courtesy Pixar Animation/Walt Disney Studios
In Disney and Pixar’s “Inside Out 2,” Joy (voice of Amy Poehler), Sadness (voice of Phyllis Smith), Anger (voice of Lewis Black), Fear (voice of Tony Hale) and Disgust (voice of Liza Lapira) aren’t sure how to feel when Anxiety (voice of Maya Hawke) shows up unexpectedly. Directed by Kelsey Mann and produced by Mark Nielsen, “Inside Out 2” releases only in theaters Summer 2024.
On the Screen: ‘Inside Out 2’ a bold evolution of Pixar’s emotional storytelling

Set only a year after the events of the first film, “Inside Out 2” returns viewers to the inner workings of pre-teen Riley

Calvin Fair, in his element, on Buck Mountain, above Chief Cove on Kodiak Island, in October 1986. His hunting partner and longtime friend Will Troyer captured this image while they were on one of the duo’s annual deer-hunting trips. (Photo courtesy of the Fair Family Collection)
The Road Not Taken: A tribute to my father’s career choice

For the first 40 years of my life, I saw my father professionally as a dentist. Period.

Edward Burke is ordained a transitional deacon by Archbishop Andrew E. Bellisario at Our Lady of the Angels Catholic Church in Kenai, Alaska, on Saturday, June 8, 2024. (Photo provided by Our Lady of the Angels Catholic Church)
Kenai’s Catholic Church hosts diaconate ordination

The event was attended by roughly 300 people, nearly a dozen priests and deacons and the archbishop of the Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau

Rhubarb custard cake is ready to be baked. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Rhubarb and running to lift the spirits

Frozen rhubarb just won’t do for this tart and beautiful custard cake, so pick it fresh wherever you can find it

Minister’s Message: Prioritizing prayer

I am thankful I can determine to pray about choices and circumstances

Most Read