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Oregon Agriculture Officials Take Aim At Japanese Beetle

The Oregon Department of Agriculture said it's recorded the largest Japanese beetle infestation in the state's history. But officials hope to stop the pest from spreading with an aggressive eradication program.

Japanese beetles have a voracious appetite and love to chow down on roses, vegetables and even cannabis. The pests are thought to have hitched a ride to the U.S. on an imported plant about 100 years ago and have mostly been held at bay in Oregon.

But an outbreak in a mostly residential area of northwest Portland has officials like Clint Burfitt worried. He manages pest prevention at the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

"If Japanese Beetle were to establish in Oregon, then many of the types of plants that we produce in Oregon, and many agriculture commodities that we produce in Oregon would no longer be welcome in their primary markets."

The agency is proposing a five-year eradication program. If funded, the state would ask roughly 2,500 property owners to allow insecticide use aimed at killing Japanese beetle grubs.

The insecticide would be applied once a year over five years, and only in turf grass and ornamental planting beds. Burfitt said it would not be applied in vegetable gardens or riparian areas. The Oregon Department of Agriculture is contacting property owners in the affected area to inform them of the possible eradication program.

Burfitt said it's unknown at this point what action the agency would take if property owners refuse to participate in the program. The estimated cost of the program is $700,000 per year.

Copyright 2017 Northwest News Network

Chris Lehman graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree in 1997. He landed his first job less than a month later, producing arts stories for Red River Public Radio in Shreveport, Louisiana. Three years later he headed north to DeKalb, Illinois, where he worked as a reporter and announcer for NPR–affiliate WNIJ–FM. In 2006 he headed west to become the Salem Correspondent for the Northwest News Network.