North Dakota now is among the states whose residents are receiving unsolicited packages of seeds from Asian countries.
During the past few weeks, there have been reports from residents of other states, including Virginia, Washington and Utah, who have received packages of seeds from China. Some of the packages are marked “earrings’ on the outside, but actually contain seeds. Officials at the agriculture departments are warning people not to plant the seeds, which may be, or contain, invasive plant species.
The North Dakota Department of Agriculture has received several calls since Friday about the seeds from people who live as far west as Williams County and as far east as Pembina County, said Michelle Mielke, a spokeswoman for the agriculture department.
"I know we’ve had at least five reports since Friday," Mielke said, the afternoon of Monday, July 27.
Grand Forks resident Betty Wilkening, on Monday, July 27, opened a package for her friend, Dennis Warner, when she was helping him go through the mail at his farm in Pembina County and was surprised to find it contained banana seeds.
The return address of the package is Uzbekistan, a country in central Asia. She reported the package to the Pembina County Extension agricultural agent and to the North Dakota Department of Agriculture.
Wilkening didn't consider planting the seeds because she was concerned about their origin, and Warner didn't order them. Meanwhile, banana trees aren't zoned for northern North Dakota.
"They don't like 20 below," Wilkening said, with a laugh.
The agriculture department is advising people who receive the seed packages to put them, unopened, and the outside package in a plastic bag that can be sealed. Recipients of the packages also should call the North Dakota Department of Agriculture at (701) 328-2391 or email it to email@example.com with their name, phone number and number of packages they received.
After they’ve put the seed packages and exterior packages in a sealed plastic bag and contacted the state agriculture department, they should wait for further instructions.
“I know people are curious, but please do not plant them. They could be laced with invasive weeds,” Mielke said,
“The introduction of a noxious weed or new disease can have devastating effects on agriculture and our food supply," said Jason Goltz, regulatory manager of the North Dakota State Seed Department in a news release.
The North Department of Agriculture and the North Dakota State Seed Department will work with the United States Department of Agriculture to identify and destroy the seeds.