Senate bill includes directives to manage invasive cane scale

Richard Bogren  |  7/28/2017 9:08:04 PM

(07/28/17) BATON ROUGE, La. — Late last week, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee moved the 2018 Agricultural Appropriations Bill forward to the floor. It included two directives for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and Agricultural Research Service to work closely with stakeholders in Louisiana to develop an integrated management program for an infestation of Roseau cane scale.

“As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I stressed to my colleagues the importance of destroying this bug. It’s gobbling up our marshes faster than Pac-Man, and I’m not being flippant. This little bug is decimating all the progress we’ve made on slowing coastal erosion,” said U.S. Sen. John Kennedy.

“Anyone who lives in Louisiana knows that we have been in a battle to save our disappearing coastline,” Kennedy said. “This bug threatens every single advancement we’ve made. I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to make sure that we are doing everything we can to stop this infestation.”

The LSU AgCenter has been working with the Louisiana congressional delegation to ensure they have all necessary information to inform other congressional leaders and federal agencies on the potential negative impact this insect will have if it were to spread to other states, according to AgCenter officials.

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy and Rep. Garret Graves initiated delegation participation by requesting assistance from Sonny Perdue, U.S. secretary of agriculture, through a letter co-signed by the entire Louisiana delegation. The delegation letter requested USDA to work with the AgCenter and agriculture leaders to address the issue.

“I thank the Louisiana delegation for joining Rep. Graves and me as we combat this threat to Louisiana’s coastline,” Cassidy said. “A special thanks to the LSU AgCenter and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries who initially raised the issue of the threat to Roseau cane, and therefore, the threat to the Louisiana coastline.”

An estimated 225,000 acres of wetlands in the south Mississippi River Delta have been impacted by the scale infestation.

Roseau cane is a coastal plant that grows quickly and has a large root system that helps to increase soil accumulation, reduce erosion, provide habitat for fisheries and migratory birds, protect oil and gas pipelines, and protect shorelines from storm surge, said Rogers Leonard, LSU AgCenter vice president.

Widespread die-offs of this cane have been reported in Plaquemines Parish since fall 2016.

State biologists found that cane die-offs were associated with outbreaks of a small insect called the Phragmites scale, which is a native to Asia and feeds on the cane sap. Because of the accelerated loss of the Louisiana coast, it is crucial that a management plan be developed to monitor the health of Roseau cane stands and lessen the effects of this invasive scale, Leonard said.

“We’ve had hurricanes, a catastrophic oil spill and major mismanagement of the river system all working against our coast,” Graves said. “The last thing we need is another coastal assault. We need to get ahead of this latest attack on our coast and refocus efforts on aggressive restoration of our coastal wetlands and protection of our coastal communities. This is a step in the right direction.”

The LSU AgCenter, the LSU Department of Entomology, the LSU School of Renewable Natural Resources, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry are working with affected parishes, including Jefferson, Plaquemines and St. Bernard, and the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority to develop a public education and management plan to understand and address the Roseau cane die-offs.

In addition to the education and management programs, additional research is needed to determine the potential for the insect to impact other agricultural commodities including sugar cane, rice and corn, AgCenter officials said. An infestation crossing into agricultural commodities could cause devastating impacts to the agricultural economy of Louisiana.

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Scale insects sit on a stalk of Roseau cane. This insect feeds on the cane destroying the plant. Photo by Rodrigo Diaz/LSU AgCenter

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