Extreme drought has led to a lack of roughage, necessitating imports from abroad. This increases the risk of stowaways that could cause damage and loss of crops for Norwegian grain and grass cultivation.
Roughage for Norwegian livestock consists primarily of grass and hay, but also straw. Importing these products, however, poses a risk to Norwegian plant health. Shipments could contain pests such as weeds, insects, viruses, bacteria, nematodes, and fungi, with the potential to inflict significant damage on crops and plants if allowed to spread.
NIBIO has evaluated the risk to plant health and written a report for the Norwegian Food Safety Authority in connection with imports of hay and straw from the EU and non-EU countries to Norway.
“It appears that fungal diseases, individual weeds, and nematodes would be less of a challenge than bacteria, viruses, and insects,” says Hanne Skomedal, head of the Department for Viruses, Bacteria and Nematodes at NIBIO and coordinator of the report.
Importing feed from nearby countries presents less of a risk. The likelihood of harmful species establishing themselves will be greater than with imports from areas that are farther away geographically.
“Imports from areas that are farther away, like the United States or New Zealand, and which have climates that resemble that of Norway, will present a greater risk of new species establishing themselves than imports from countries with substantially different climates,” Skomedal points out.
Potential stowaways that could present a risk include the fungus Tilletia indica, which causes the disease Karnal bunt in wheat and rye, as well as new strains of existing fungal diseases and foreign species of weeds. There is also a risk of introducing new specimens of existing species but with a different genetic background, or of existing species spreading to new parts of the country