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New ecological pest management of pernicious scale insects in Mediterranean forests and groves

Contract nr: FAIR-CT97-3440
Project nr: 3440
Project type: SC
Starting date: 01/01/1998
Duration: 48 months
Total cost: 996,000 EUR
EC Contribution: 996,000 EUR
Scientific Officer: Massimo BURIONI
Research topic: Plant health
Acronym: PHOCUS

Pine is the most important and abundant tree of the forests in Southern Europe and the Near East. In addition to providing valuable timber, the forests play a crucial role as an integral part of the recreation site, and contribute to adequate landscaping and air quality. The Mediterranean region is one of the major citrus producers and exporters of fresh fruit in the world. Pine and citrus are prone to severe and repeated attacks by pernicious scale insects (Matsucoccus and Planococcus). Control of these pests with insecticides is usually ineffective, due to their waxy body covering and cryptic behaviour, which prevent satisfactory application. Moreover, the management of forests free from toxic chemicals and the supply of safe citrus products relies mainly on the development of environmentally friendly methods of pest control: recent identification and synthesis of the relevant sex pheromones, open new prospects for the protection of the trees by using these selective, extremely active and nontoxic biochemicals. The findings that some of these sex pheromones also display kairomonal activity - namely attracting predators and parasitoids - indicates that they could be used to manipulate natural enemies for the benefit of the growers. Combined use of pheromones/kairomones and natural enemies will contribute to promoting a new scale pest management strategy that is ecologically sound and will enable to reduce the application of insecticides.

The objectives of the proposal (PHOCUS) are:
1) to optimise the synthesis of pheromones and analogues and to design efficient traps and lures to attract scale insects and their natural enemies;
2) to assess the potential use of pheromone traps for monitoring scale pests by correlating trap catch with population densities;
3) to evaluate the effect of mass trapping on scale pest density and its possible adverse effect on the performance of natural enemies;
4) to evaluate the effectiveness of three biological control procedures, firstly by using kairomones to select new exotic natural enemies, then by the use of kairomones to congregate native natural enemies in infested stands, and finally, using inundating releases of mass-reared natural enemies.

The project involves a new strategy of application of pheromones and kairomones for the protection of trees against harmful scale pests, taking into account tree injury, scale insect abundance and natural enemies. It will test the feasibility of the new IPM strategy for both pine stands and citrus groves. Conducting experiments under comparable procedures in the four countries subject to different climatic conditions and pest densities will provide the means to assess the validity of the proposed new IPM strategy. The combined expertise of the different teams participating in PHOCUS, the close collaboration between chemists and entomologists and the involvement of two industries specialised in the production of biochemical and natural enemies, are key factors in the successful application of the project results. The partnership of three southern European countries - France, Italy and Portugal - with Israel, will contribute preserving sustainable forestry and fruit growing in the Mediterranean Basin. The practical use of combined biochemical and biological means will stimulate the production of fruits free from toxic residues as well as the conservation of healthy forests that will improve the well-being of the peoples of the Mediterranean countries.
Key words: Integrated Pest Management, Pines Forests, Citrus, Scale Insect Pests, Pheromone, Kairomone, Natural Enemies


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  • Marco Vittorio COVASSI
    Istituto Sperimentale Zoologia Agraria Firenze
    Via Lanciola 12/A
    I-50020 Firenze Monteoriolo
    Tel.: +39 05 52 49 22 21
    Fax: +39 05 52 09 177

  • Zvi MENDEL
    Agricultural Research Organisation
    Institute of Plant Protection
    Department of Entomology
    P.O. Box 6
    IL-50250 Bet Dagan
    Tel.: +972 39 68 36 36
    Fax: +972 39 60 41 80

  • Antonio MEXIA
    Instituto Superior de Agronomia
    Tapada Da Ajuda
    P-1300 Lisboa
    Tel.: +351 21 363 81 61
    Fax: +351 21 360 20 30

  • Sebastiano BARBAGALLO
    Universita' degli Studi di Catania
    Piazza Universita' 2
    I-95100 Catania
    Tel.: +33 095 35 07 21
    Fax: +33 095 35 67 52
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