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Brown marmorated stink bug. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Continuing Battle Against Invasive Species

Nifa Authors
Margaret Lawrence, Writer-Editor

What do feral hogs, leafy spurge, brown marmorated stink bugs and sea lamprey all have in common? They are all invasives species.  

Nearly every terrestrial, wetland and aquatic ecosystem in the United States has been invaded by species that are non-native to it and whose introduction and continued presence causes economic, social or environmental harm. A number of invasive species have hitchhiked their way into the U.S. on imported goods and packaging materials. Natural climate events such as hurricanes have also brought some to the country. Additionally, a native plant in one part of the country can become an invasive species in another region. 

People, businesses and governments spend considerable time, money and other resources trying to control these unwanted invaders. Recent studies estimate that invasive species have cost North America $2 billion per year in the early 1960s to more than $26 billion annually since 2010. The total global estimated cost of these non-natives tops more than $1.288 trillion over the past 50 years. 

USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is supporting research, education and Extension efforts to effectively manage invasive species with funding from Section 406 Pest Management Programs and grant opportunities offered through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) program. In addition, NIFA provides additional support through annual Smith-Lever as well as Hatch formula funding. 

Recent NIFA Supported Invasive Species Efforts 

  • Through field and lab experiments — and the help of more than 1,200 community scientists — researchers in Pennsylvania identified native species (including birds, arthropods, reptiles and small mammals) that prey on adult spotted lanternflies, an incredibly destructive pest in the northeastern U.S.  Pennsylvania State University project supported by McIntire-Stennis funds.  


  • The Michigan Paddle Stewards program teaches paddlers to identify, report and prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species. Participants get tips for properly cleaning their boats and paddling equipment to avoid transferring aquatic invasive species and diseases between water bodies. Through this program, hydrilla, an invasive plant that had never been found in Michigan before, was confirmed in residential ponds that connect to a river system. 
    Michigan State University project supported by Smith-Lever funds. 


  • After attending invasive species field days hosted by Extension educators in Indiana, most participants reported they planned to incorporate methods they learned, including controlled burns and grazing goats to keep invasive species in check. Purdue University project supported by Smith-Lever funds.  


  • Feral hogs are an invasive species that cause an estimated $1.5 billion in economic damages annually across the U.S. They carry diseases that threaten people and other wildlife, and their wallowing behavior disrupts ecosystems and damages farmland and crops. Researchers in Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas developed damage estimates for croplands, forestlands and pasturelands. Setting a baseline for feral hog damage will help guide management practices. University of Arkansas, Louisiana Tech University and Texas A&M University project supported in part by McIntire-Stennis funds.  


  • Researchers in Louisiana received a patent for a lethal bait for feral hogs. The bait is relatively humane and has minimal impact on nontarget species and the environment.  Louisiana State University project supported in part by Hatch funds. 


  • Extension educators in New York removed thousands of invasive species from boats, kayaks and other watercraft before entering and exiting a popular lake that serves as a drinking water supply and a significant source of recreation revenue. This effort also raised awareness of more than 40,000 tourists and local residents about the importance of cleaning, draining and drying watercraft to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species. Cornell University project supported by Smith-Lever funds. 


  • In Alaska, Extension developed the new Slugwatch site, which is tracking the distribution of both native and nonnative slugs, as reported by community scientists. Their collected data has expanded the understanding of slug spread in Alaska, with the ranges of both native and non-native slugs shown to be far larger than expected. University of Alaska project supported by Smith-Lever funds. 
Farm Bill Priority Areas
Bioenergy, natural resources, and environment
U.S. States and Territories
New York

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