Project Description

Project Description

The pine weevil (Hylobius abietis L.) is a small insect in the size of a fingernail, is economically the most destructive pest in tree planting and re-forestation of conifer forests across Europe, Russia, Asia, and to some extent in North America. If not protected against the pine weevil, there is a high risk of up to 100% plant mortality of young forest tree seedlings and costs in the range of €140 million every year in EU-27 for replanting. Highly hazardous insecticides are currently used to protect freshly planted forest tree seedlings, but their use is banned by new EU legislation and forbidden for certified wood production.

A new research project aiming at reducing the damages caused by the pine weevil (Hylobius albietis L.) started on October 1st, called WeevilSTOP. The research is funded by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme managed by REA Research Executive Agency: under grant agreement no 315404.

The pine weevil is a small bug that feeds on young conifer trees by eating the bark, thus killing the plant. Costs for Europe’s 16 million private forest owners caused by the pest are estimated to €140 million annually, a number that could be reduced significantly with improved methods for plant protection.

There are currently two main options for protecting seedlings against the pine weevil; chemical and physical. Chemical protection with insecticides is the main and traditional way for protections, a method with clear disadvantages. The chemicals applied cause health problem for people handling them and the protection for the plant wears off with time, creating a need for re-treatment once the seedlings are out in the field. The other option to protect seedlings is by physical protection; plastic or paper collars, nets or coatings. One of the coating methods is to cover the lower part of the seedling stem with wax, and the further development of the wax coating method is the subject for the WeevilSTOP project.

The general idea for the project is to develop a cost-effective and sustainable insecticide free pest management method, which is environmentally friendly and toxicologically safe.

The WeevilSTOP project team consists of 15 members from seven countries across Europe. The private forest owners are represented by five forest associations, covering the development especially from financial and feasibility aspect. High focus will be on taking forward process equipment suitable for small as well as large nurseries, at an affordable cost. Development of waxing machinery that applies the coating in a proper way at sufficient speed and quality is an important outcome of the project, enabling large scale waxing at the nurseries.

Main objects for the WeevilSTOP project is to improve the wax protection method by studying the wax-plant interaction (stem length required, layer thickness etc), the wax-weevil interaction (how does the bug respond to the coating) and take forward new machinery for handling plants and applying wax.
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