Friday, February 28, 2020

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[Posted: February 28, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

Thursday, February 27, 2020

DCNR Good Natured Blog: Weevils To The Rescue, Helping To Reduce Spread Of Mile-A-Minute Invasive Plant

By: Andrew Rohrbaugh, Botanist, Ecological Services Section, Bureau of Forestry

How can I solve my mile-a-minute problem? This is a question frequently received by DCNR’s Bureau of Forestry.
And it’s no wonder, because this invasive vine can grow up to six inches a day -- quickly smothering native vegetation and climbing up to tree canopies where it restricts light to plants below it.
Its fast growth is one way that the plant spreads, but its seeds are the primary means. Birds and other wildlife eat the fruits and spread the seeds in their droppings.
Mile-a-minute seeds also are buoyant for up to nine days in water and can be spread by streams and floods.
Stopping the spread of this invasive plant is a major concern for DCNR and property owners -- and we’re fighting this battle in three ways: manually removing the plant, chemically attacking the plant, and deploying the help of a small insect -- the weevil.
About Mile-A-Minute
Mile-a-minute (Persicaria perfoliate), also known as devil’s tearthumb, is an invasive plant from Asia.
It is a slender annual vine with downward-pointing sharp outgrowths, bright green triangular leaves, and blue-purple berries.
It closely resembles our native halberd tear-thumb species, which have more arrow-shaped, linear leaves.
Mile-a-minute was accidentally introduced into the U.S. with nursery stock in the 1930s and is now a noxious weed in Pennsylvania.
As an annual species, individual plants set seed and entirely die each year. Seeds either drop to the ground or are spread by birds to new areas. The population then re-grows from seed at the start of the next growing season.
Mile-a-minute loves disturbance and full sunlight. When those two factors combine, its seedlings can generally outcompete most of our native plants, sprawling over them and depriving them of sunlight.
How to Control Mile-A-Minute
Large populations of mile-a-minute are best controlled with pre-emergent treatment, such as Oust or Proclipse, during March before the seed starts to germinate.
However, any pre-emergent treatments will likely affect other plant species that you are not targeting in the application area.
For very small populations, hand pulling and digging may be effective.
Small plants pull out by the roots easily early in the growing season. As the season progresses and plants become larger, root material can be more difficult to remove completely.
Due to the barbs on mature plants, gloves are recommended for pulling plants. Plants can be pulled until fruit begins to appear.
Both tricolpyr (Garlon 3A) and glyphosate (Glyphomate 41) can be applied to the plant during the growing season. Glyphomate 41 will kill all plants; Garlon 3A targets only broadleaf plants, which may be more desirable if mile-a-minute is growing in a grassy area.
A surfactant -- which is used to alter spray solution properties so that herbicides can be more effectively applied to and absorbed by the targeted plant -- should be used as well. Without a surfactant, some store-bought glyphosate mixes can roll right off mile-a-minute leaves without impacting the plant.
Help From An Insect -- The Weevil
Another method of trying to stop the spread of mile-a-minute is with the help of a small insect, known as the weevil.
A species of weevil (Rhinoncomimus latipes) that feeds on mile-a-minute in Asia was carefully tested to ensure that it would only impact mile-a-minute plants, and not become a new problem or threat.
In 2004, the weevil was approved for release in New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.
Adult weevils can be black or orange and create feeding holes on the mile-a-minute leaves. The most significant damage to the mile-a-minute plant is from the weevil larvae, which burrow into the stems.
Weevils spread very quickly on their own, and, at this point, have become established across most of southern and eastern Pennsylvania, with more limited releases in the northern and western part of the state.
If you aren’t sure if you have mile-a-minute on your property -- walk slowly up to your suspected mile-a-minute patch (especially on a cool morning) without disturbing the plants.
You can find the adult weevils sitting on the growing tips of the plants, or occasionally in the nodes of the plants.
When scared, they’ll drop to the ground. If you don’t see any adults or feeding holes in the leaves, look for small orange scarring on the nodes of the stems -- that’s where the larvae have burrowed into or out of the plant.
If you don’t have mile-a-minute weevils and would like some, they are available to purchase from the Phillip Alampi Laboratory in New Jersey.
Another option is to contact a landowner that has mile-a-minute weevils nearby and collect them for release on your property.
You can readily capture them by stuffing a coffee can with mile-a-minute (don’t spread additional seeds!); and knocking weevils off the growing tips into the can.
They will naturally want to hide in the mile-a-minute at the bottom of the container. You may need to occasionally shake the container to knock them back down.
Only a hundred or so are required to start a new population, but remember to keep the coffee can cool, and if you are not immediately releasing them, poke airholes in the lid with a pin or very small nail.
Unfortunately, weevils aren’t a silver-bullet. They do help slow mile-a-minute, especially by damaging the nodes and forcing the plant to grow in a bushier, shorter shape.
However, cool or wet summers appear to slow the weevil population growth without slowing the mile-a-minute.
Additionally, weevils take years to build up their population numbers.
In short, weevils help, but mostly to decrease the amount of mile-a-minute, rather than eradicate it.
Learn more about the invasive mile-a-minute and how to treat it from DCNR’s Mile-a-Minute Invasive Plant Fact Sheet (PDF).
Learn more about invasive plants in Pennsylvania and how you can help control their spread at DCNR’s website.
[Visit the Department of Agriculture’s Noxious, Invasive And Poisonous Plant Program webpage for more on Pennsylvania’s Noxious Weed Control Law and Noxious Weed Control List.
[For more information on state parks and forests and recreation in Pennsylvania, visit DCNR’s website, Click Here to sign up for the Resource newsletter, Visit the Good Natured DCNR Blog,  Click Here for upcoming events, Click Here to hook up with DCNR on other social media-- Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.]
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[Posted: February 27, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

Dept. Of Agriculture Commits To Review Of “Deadly” Pesticide Chlorpyrifos

At the February 26 hearing on the Department of Agriculture’s budget request, Secretary Russell Redding made a commitment to review the pesticide chlorpyrifos to determine if it is appropriate to ban the chemical in Pennsylvania.
Redding made the commitment in response to a question from Rep. Carolyn Comitta (D-Chester).
“A number of states have taken action to ban the pesticide chlorpyrifos because of the harm it causes human health and to children in particular,” said Rep. Comitta. “ New York, California and Hawaii have all adopted bans and EPA recommended it be banned 5 years ago, although the current Administration disagrees with that conclusion.
“The Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Advisory Board is scheduled to meet March 3 on the issue and legislation that has been introduced by my colleague Rep. Zabel-- House Bill 2091 to ban the pesticide,” said Rep. Comitta.
Redding called chlorpyrifos a “deadly chemical” and a restricted use pesticide.  He said his agency has not taken a position on the legislation or a ban at this point.
“You have our commitment to do a review of the bill and look at the technicalities, including making sure to pinpoint details like the CAS number,” said Redding.
He said if Agriculture does ban the pesticide they would want to do it in the most specific way possible and not inadvertently ban a whole family of chemicals.
Rep. Comitta followed up by saying, “We have a pesticide out there that affects children, that causes brain damage.  While there may be considerations, there are none more important than our children’s health. I suggest a ‘deadly chemical’ deserves a very close look, and a ban.”
More Background
The Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Advisory Board is scheduled to meet on March 3 and on the agenda is a discussion of legislation-- House Bill 2091--  proposing a ban on the pesticide chlorpyrifos known to cause harm to human health, in particular children, as well as to wildlife.
Sen. Steve Santarsiero (D-Bucks) announced plans to introduce legislation to ban chlorpyrifos on February 4.  Separate legislation-- House Bill 2091 (Zabel-D-Delaware)-- has been introduced to do the same in the House.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommended the banning of chlorpyrifos nearly five years ago, following studies linking the pesticide with various health issues.
EPA found that children who eat produce sprayed with the pesticide can end up ingesting levels of the toxin 140 times what is considered to be safe.  Chlorpyrifos has been linked to brain damage in children.
The Trump Administration’s EPA now does not support a ban.
“Chlorpyrifos is causing significant harm to children, farm workers, and communities all across Pennsylvania and the United States,” said Sen. Santarsiero, who serves as the Minority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee. “We know the facts and have seen the results, yet we still choose to ignore the irreparable damage being inflicted upon countless people with the continued use of this pesticide.
“California, the top agricultural state in the country, banned the registration of chlorpyrifos, as did the entire European Union,” said Sen. Santarsiero.  “It’s long overdue for Pennsylvania to make the same decision and put the health of our residents first.”
After February 6, 2020, sales of the pesticide ended in California.  Hawaii and New York are phasing in chlorpyrifos bans.
On February 6, Corteva, Inc., a manufacturer of chlorpyrifos, said it would stop making the pesticide by the end of the year.
Also on the agenda for the Committee is EPA applicator training for Paraquat applications.
The meeting will be held in Room 309 of the Agriculture Building, 2301 North Cameron Street in Harrisburg starting at 9:30 a.m.
For available information, visit Agriculture’s Pesticide webpage.  Questions should be directed to Jessica Lenker by calling 717-772-5217 or send an email to: jeslenker@pa.gov
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[Posted: February 27, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

DEP Previews New Climate Impact Assessment: More Extreme Precipitation, More Livestock, More Manure, Less Effective BMPs; And SE Coastal Impact Assessment

On February 25, DEP’s Climate Change Advisory Committee was given a preview of the next Climate Impact Assessment report done by Penn State focused on extreme precipitation events, impacts on achieving water quality cleanup goals and infrastructure vulnerability through 2050.
The actual report will be available sometime in the next two months or so.
Also on the agenda was a presentation and discussion of the Coastal Effects Of Climate Change in Southeast PA study completed by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission which shows $430 million in property value is at risk in coastal areas along the Delaware Estuary in Southeast Pennsylvania through 2050.  
Climate Impact Assessment
Dr. James Shortle, Distinguished Penn State Professor of Agricultural and Environmental Economics, Director of the College of Agricultural Sciences Environment and Natural Resources Institute, Director of the Center for Nutrient Pollution Solutions, and a tag team of other faculty members made the presentation on the new Assessment.
The findings in the Assessment cover the next 30 years. While it may seem like 2050 is far into the future, think of it this way, the changes outlined in the report are likely to happen in the same timeframe as last 30 years-- from 1990 to today-- which seems pretty short.
Extreme Precipitation
Some of the key findings in the assessment include--
-- Pennsylvania will see a significant increase in precipitation, the largest increase-- more than 15 percent-- coming in the Fall.
-- Total precipitation and extreme precipitation are both likely to continue increasing in the coming decades.
-- Despite increasing precipitation, soil moisture is expected to decline in all seasons due to higher temperatures.
[A Center for Rural Pennsylvania study has already found a 71 percent increase in very heavy precipitation events has occurred over in the Northeast United States, including Pennsylvania, over the last 54 years.]
Livestock
Key findings include--
-- Pennsylvania’s poultry inventory could more than double in size as these operations, which are sensitive to heating and cooling costs, move from further south into the state.
-- Inventory of beef cattle, hogs and pigs will also increase for the same reason, but in smaller amounts.
-- Spatial rearranging of the dairy industry is likely to occur, with declines in the southeast counties and increases in northwest counties.
-- Manure nitrogen and phosphorus could increase in almost all counties as more animals produce more manure, with the most significant increases in the southcentral and southeast parts of the state.
-- These changes could exacerbate water quality issues, especially in the Susquehanna and Delaware River Basins.
-- Livestock accounts for two-thirds of Pennsylvania’s agricultural product sales.
Meeting Water Quality Cleanup Goals
Here are some key findings--
-- Climate changes will decrease the effectiveness of some best management practices and require adaptations to BMP design, placement and maintenance due to increases in precipitation, more frequent extreme events.
-- Landscape responses will be required to deal with these issues, rather than relying on scattered BMPs in a watershed; strategic targeting of critical sources of pollution or runoff will be required for cost-effective and efficient BMP placement.
-- BMPs will also have to do double-duty not only reducing polluted run off, but helping to manage stormwater.
-- Climate changes will increase local benefits of BMPs that promote resilience in agriculture and keep soil and water resources in local watersheds.
[DEP is working with Villanova’s Urban Stormwater Partnership and its Center for Resilient Water Systems evaluating the effectiveness of the best management practices in DEP’s 13-year old Stormwater Management Manual that will include how climate change will affect design parameters.]. 
Infrastructure Vulnerability
Several key findings on infrastructure vulnerability--
-- Electric Distribution: heavy precipitation can induce landslides and flooding making substations particularly vulnerable; nearly all major electrical substations in Southwest Pennsylvania lie in identified landslide hazard zones.
-- Natural Gas Infrastructure: Landslides are an emerging risk for natural gas infrastructure and research is needed to develop monitoring requirements. 
-- Rail Infrastructure: Increased vulnerability to flooding and landslides, slope maintenance needs and responsibilities are not always clear.
[Although highways were not the focus of the Climate Impact Assessment, PennDOT completed an Extreme Weather Vulnerability Study in 2017.  
[The June 2018 update to Pennsylvania’s Federal Hazard Mitigation Plan submitted by the PA Emergency Management Agency to FEMA for the first time included a more “robust” evaluation of how climate change would affect the risk of flooding and other natural disasters in the state.]
Previous Impact Assessments
DEP published a more comprehensive Climate Change Impact Assessment, also done by Penn State, in 2015 for public comment, but never finalized the document.  Click Here for a copy of the Assessment.
On February 26 of last year, DEP told the Advisory Committee the expected impacts of climate change on the Commonwealth have not changed in broad terms--
-- Climate change could worsen air quality: increasing pollen concentration, mold concentration, and ground-level ozone, causing longer allergy seasons, aggravating asthma, and increasing mortality among at-risk populations.
-- Vector-borne diseases like West Nile virus and Lyme disease could increase due to more favorable conditions for mosquitoes and deer ticks.
-- Increased precipitation in many parts of the state could lead to higher flood risks and threaten safe drinking water supplies.
-- Warmer temperatures will bring more favorable conditions for agricultural pests like weeds and insects.
-- Severe storms – strengthened by warmer temperatures – could affect reliable electric service and threaten current electric infrastructure.
-- Some changes will be positive: longer growing seasons and more tolerable temperatures for crops not currently grown in Pennsylvania offer new opportunities for farmers.
SE PA Coastal Climate Impacts
Chris Linn, from the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, gave a presentation on the Coastal Effects of Climate Change in Southeastern PA online story map which shows $430 million in property value is at risk in coastal areas along the Delaware Estuary in Southeast Pennsylvania through 2050.
The report notes Greater Philadelphia area is expected to see an increase of from 3 to 8 degrees above current temperatures, depending on future trends in greenhouse gas emissions.
Increasing temperatures are predicted to cause rising sea levels across the globe.  Along the North Atlantic coast of the United States, sea level is predicted to rise at a higher rate than the global average. 
This is due to many region-specific geologic and oceanographic processes, but a primary factor is that land in this region is sinking slowly due to subsidence.
The water levels of the tidal section of the Delaware River will rise as sea level rises along the Atlantic Coast. These rising water levels will be a permanent change to the landscape and will introduce new flooding vulnerabilities along the Delaware that communities will need to address.
The analysis shown in the story map calculates coastal flood heights for the years 2050 and 2100 by adding projected sea level rise onto the flood height calculated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for the current 1 percent flood (also known as “100-year” flood).
In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, sea level is expected to rise approximately another 1.0 to 1.8 feet by 2050 (1.4 feet being the central estimate) from a base year of 2000) and could rise approximately 1.7 to 4.5 feet by 2100 (3.4 feet being the central estimate), depending on the low or high greenhouse gas emissions levels projected.
The Commission’s analysis found regardless of whether a high- or low-emissions scenario is used to forecast sea level rise, the projections for 2050 are very similar
The maps in the analysis compares differences in areas flooded during storms and the 100-year flood event and areas that would be chronically flooded because of permanent sea level rise.
This analysis indicates approximately 42 miles of roadway, 75 community assets, and 498 structures are at risk of chronic inundation in 2050.
The property value at risk of chronic inundation is $430 million. That number climbs to $920 million in property value at risk in the high emissions scenario.
The story map presentation also reviews the potential savings in national flood insurance premiums if communities in the coastal zone participated in the federal Community Rating System which awards points to communities for a variety of activities, including activities relating to public information, mapping and regulations, flood hazard mitigation, and warning and response.
Visit the Coastal Effects of Climate Change in Southeastern PA story map that will be used in the presentation and explore how coastal flooding may affect you.
Click Here for more on climate resiliency from the Delaware Regional Planning Commission.
For more information and available handouts, visit the DEP Climate Change Advisory Committee webpage.  Questions should be directed to Lindsay Byron by calling 717-772-8951 or send an email to: lbyron@pa.gov
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[Posted: February 27, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

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