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Arundo donax regulation to take effect in December 2013

The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) Plant Division has approved new reuglations restricting the import, propagation, growth and sale of giant reed grass (Arundo donax). The ornamental grass, also known as giant cane grass, has been deemed invasive in some regions of the United States.

The new rulemaking prohibits the import, planting, propagation and/or growth of Arundo donax throughout the state of Oregon, unless the grower obtains a special permit from ODA to produce it. The prohibition will take effect on Dec. 31, 2013. Variegated selections of Arundo donax will be exempt from this prohibition; growers will be allowed to produce them without a permit. These include 'Peppermint Stick', 'Variegata', 'Golden Chain', and others.

Permit holders will pay an annual fee, and will be required to meet certain conditions designed to prevent the invasive spread of the plant. They will also be required to put up a bond to pay for eradication, should the plant escape the cultivated area and become feral.

The rule balances the need to protect the environment with the economic benefit that some farmers may derive from growing it responsibly. The rule was developed with input from the Oregon Association of Nurseries and the Oregon Weed Board.

The OAN's Government Relations Committee discussed this issue and pulled together a group of members who grow Arundo donax or have strong feelings regarding the issue. The workgroup met twice (March and June 2012), and members were updated as rule changes were developed.

Mark Krautmann of Heritage Seedlings is a past president of OAN and current member of the Oregon Weed Board. He was very involved throughout the process. "OAN member growers are accountable stewards for our plant, water and soil resources, including ornamental plants that occasionally cause economic harm," Krautmann said. "Again, as with butterfly bush and English ivy, the OAN worked with ODA to verify that any ODA regulatory action taken on ornamental plants is based on sound, science-based risk assessments and that the action taken is appropriate to the harm risk a plant demonstrates."

The approved rule outlines the requirements for those who want to seek a permit to grow Arundo donax. It can be viewed here (PDF). A hearing was held Oct. 30, 2012, and the report can be viewed here (PDF).

Arundo donax is being explored as an energy/biomass crop to replace coal at the Portland General Electric facility in Boardman, Ore. Officials with PGE believe it has excellent potential due to its rapid rate of growth, which can exceed 4 inches in a day or 20 feet in a season. It is also used in the production of musical instrument reeds.

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