Physical sciences, Earth sciences

Precautions to protect pines against parasites

An EU research initiative sought to limit the impact of the pine wood nematode (PWN), an invasive pest that is devastating Portugal's pine forests.

The PWN, Bursaphelenchus xylophilus, does a lot of damage to commercial pine plantations in Europe. Since the arrival of the PWN in Portugal, and its spread by a local longhorn beetle, native European pines have proved extremely susceptible.

Containing and eradicating PWN requires a detailed understanding of its behaviour and dynamics in infested trees in Europe. The EU-funded REPHRAME (Development of improved methods for detection, control and eradication of pine wood nematode in support of EU plant health policy) project brought Europe's leading experts on PWN together to address knowledge gaps and contain the problem.

The project studied several European pine tree species, and focused on the most common longhorn beetle vector – Monochamus galloprovincialis. Researchers identified and commercialised a pheromone that can be used for trapping Monochamus, and designed a trapping system to reduce beetle numbers.

A major finding of this research was that Monochamus spreads farther in open areas (up to 40 kms) than in woodlands (less than 2 kms). This can be used to inform vector behaviour strategies. Another aspect of REPHRAME focused on ways to sample trees and monitor pine wilt disease effectively, and it used genetics to find where PWN came from.

Lastly, researchers produced a number of models to predict the spread of PWN and pine wilt in Europe, both through vectors and human activity. These were collected into a freely available toolkit to help managers understand and control PWN and wilt disease.

The project's outcomes give those involved a new weapon to combat PWN. Ultimately, REPHRAME contributes to better PWN risk assessment and management and will benefit Europe's pine trees.

last modification: 2016-07-07 14:14:01

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