Even though it’s slightly only half-way over, nothing about 2020 should surprise anyone anymore. The year started with terrible Australian wildfires (remember them?) and quickly dovetailed into a global pandemic. From this, new terms such as “social distancing” and “remote learning” have become commonplace, death tolls have mounted, and face mask debates have ensued (at least here in the U.S.). Given all the domino effects these “new normals” have had on society thus far, 2020 has created an overall atmosphere of uncertainty and lightning quick societal changes.
But now, another surprise has cropped up in the long list of 2020 surprises – mystery seeds. For a few months now, seemingly random residents across the country have been receiving packages of unknown seeds. According to most accounts, these originate from China.
At the moment, no one is quite sure what to make of these mysterious seeds. According to some sources, it’s possible that the seeds are part of a “brushing” campaign, in which online retailers send out unsolicited packages and use the fake sales to improve the seller’s ratings in the marketplace. But state agricultural and environmental leaders don’t want to take any chances. As for the seeds themselves, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has identified some of them as a mixture of ornamental, fruit and vegetable, herb, and weed seeds.
Still, the agency is asking recipients not to plant these seeds and instead turn them over to APHIS. “It is important that we collect as many seeds as possible to determine whether they could introduce damaging pests and diseases that could be harmful to American agriculture,” said the agency in a press release. The release went on to point out that weed seeds, invasive species, and disease pathogens can spread rapidly, costing millions of dollars annually for just a single plant or disease, and cause billions of dollars of impact overall each year.
Purdue University also cautioned against planting these seeds in its own press release. “It might be tempting to put this into some soil to see what happens, but there’s a lot of damage that can cause,” said Don Robison, Seed Administrator for the Office of Indiana State Chemist, in the release. “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. 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.”
So, we can add “mystery seeds from China” to the list of weird and unprecedented events that have taken place thus far in 2020. Considering we still have over four months to go in the year, I can hardly wait to see what the next “unique event” is!