news 4 days ago

Mystery seeds show up in county

The Herald Bulletin, Anderson, Ind. — Don Knight The Herald Bulletin, Anderson, Ind.

Aug. 01-- Aug. 1--ANDERSON -- Mystery seeds have been appearing in mailboxes throughout the United States and Canada, including Madison County.

The unsolicited seeds appear to be coming from China, said the USDA in a press release.

As of Thursday two residents had contacted the Madison County Purdue Extension to report receiving the seeds, said Beth Vansickle, Extension educator.

"One individual happened to plant them but she's since killed it," Vansickle said. "She did it in a pot so we are working with our local DNR contact to dispose of it properly."

"We don't know what these seeds are, and there is potential for doing serious harm to everything from your backyard garden to the commodity and specialty crops that are such an important part of the agricultural economy," said Don Robison, seed administrator for the Office of Indiana State Chemist, in a press release.

"The last thing we want is to spread a weed, invasive species or disease, and that's a real risk if people plant these or throw them in the garbage."

Seeds thrown out in the garbage could sprout in landfills.

Officials caution if you receive an unsolicited package of seeds in the mail, do not open the seed packet. Place the seed packet and all the packaging including the mailing address into a zip top bag. Write your contact information on the bag, place it in an envelope or box and mail it to USDA APHIS PPQ, State Plant Health Director, Nick Johnson, 3059 N. Morton St., Franklin, IN 46131.

If you do not want to or are unable to mail the seeds to the USDA, Vansickle said the county Extension office will take the seeds.

They should be in a zip top bag with the packaging including the mailing address and your contact information written on the outside of the bag.

If you have planted the seeds, you should contact the county Extension office and they will work with the local DNR Division of Entomology & Plant Pathology to properly dispose of the seeds.

The USDA said they are testing the contents of the seed packages to determine if they are a concern to U.S. agriculture or the environment.

Currently, the packages are thought to be part of a "brushing" scam where unsolicited packages are sent in order to leave positive reviews and drive sales at online retailers, according to the USDA.

The USDA, Customs and Border Protection, other federal agencies, and state departments of agriculture are investigating the case.

Follow Don Knight on Twitter @donwknight, or call 765-622-1212 ext. 204567.

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