Soybeans at risk? Why Indiana agriculture officials worry about mystery seeds from China
July 30, 2020
There’s a reason Indiana agriculture officials don’t see the humor in the mysterious seed packets that are showing up in more than 300 Hoosier mailboxes.
Similar packages sent to residents in Washington state have contained the seeds of amaranth, a noxious weed that poses a threat to one of Indiana’s biggest cash crops.
So as people in all 50 states have reported receiving mysterious packages of seeds, most postmarked from China, agricultural officials aren’t joining in on the memes and jokes that have caught fire on social media.
Those officials worry about what they might be: noxious weeds, invasive species or carriers of dangerous invasive species. It is still unclear at this point what the contents of the seeds collected in Indiana are, but the Office of the Indiana State Chemist doesn’t want to take any chances.
In Indiana, 5.5 million acres of soy are planted this year.
Many in this family of amaranth weeds are already resistant to multiple classes of herbicides and are “yield robbers,” said Don Robison, seed administrator in the State Chemist Office.
“We cannot afford to add to the issues agriculture already has with this class of weeds,” Robison said.
APHIS is collecting the seeds and either a USDA lab or the Indiana State Seed Lab will analyze and identify the seeds. If the Indiana lab identifies the seed, Robison said the staff will wear full personal protective equipment as though they are dealing with some seed treatments that can be toxic to humans — that’s because they are not sure what the seeds might contain.