Seeds that float in the air can hitchhike in unusual places – like the air-intake grille of a refrigerated shipping container. A team of researchers from the USDA Forest Service, Arkansas State University, and other organizations recently conducted a study that involved vacuuming seeds from air-intake grilles over two seasons at the Port of Savannah, Georgia. The viability of such seeds is of significant interest to federal regulatory and enforcement agencies, and the project required a shared stewardship approach. Their findings were recently published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Seeds from 30 plant taxa were collected from the air-intake grilles, including seeds of wild sugarcane (Saccharum spontaneum), a grass on the USDA Federal Noxious Weed List. Federal noxious weeds pose immediate, significant threats to agriculture, nursery, and forestry industries. Although a lovely grass and useful in its native range, wild sugarcane has the potential to join cogongrass, stiltgrass, and other nonnative species that have become extremely widespread in the U.S.