Improved efficiency and cost savings identified in latest forest pest control research

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15 MARCH 2012NEWS RELEASE No: 15351

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New, more efficient methods of natural control of pine weevil (Hylobius abietis), identified by scientists working on the IMPACT project in Wales, could lead to major cost savings.

Results from extensive field trials by IMPACT researchers show that new pest control methods could reduce populations of this significant pest by at least half.

The non-chemical treatments are predicted to lessen damage to new plantings in Wales and elsewhere, improving tree establishment, substantially reducing costs and helping protect trees from the increasing threat of pests and diseases and enable them to provide environmental benefits both now and in the future.

Using a cocktail of the pest’s natural enemies - microscopic nematode worms and fungi – could have a dramatic impact on the number one forestry pest, the Welsh team told colleagues and stakeholders at a workshop held at the National University of Ireland in Maynooth.

“Hylobius can kill up to half the young trees after re-planting,” Professor Hugh Evans, Head of Forest Research in Wales and co-ordinator of the IMPACT project, told the meeting.
“Already, our work shows we can get better environmentally-friendly reduction in pest numbers more efficiently by using lower rates of nematodes, compared with the normal dose used currently and can cut the present costs in half.

“And we believe that by using a cocktail of natural agents, nematodes and fungi, to attack and kill the larvae, pupae and young adult Hylobius we can make this alternative to chemical pesticides even more effective.”

IMPACT is a Forest Research in Wales led project, with partners from Swansea University and the National University of Ireland, Maynooth. It is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the Ireland Wales Programme (INTERREG 4A), with match funding from Forestry Commission Wales.

The team is testing insect-killing fungi alongside the nematodes, both separately and in a cocktail, at reduced concentrations. Halving the expensive biological agents used could reduce costs considerably.

“Analysis of the results confirms that all treatments were effective, significantly reducing the numbers of live H. abietis in, and emerging from, stumps in comparison with an untreated control,” said IMPACT researcher Finlay McAllister.

“There was little or no apparent benefit from applying the higher doses of both fungi and nematodes, suggesting that the current operational dose might be reduced if application of the biological control agents could be targeted more precisely.”

Both nematodes and fungi naturally occur in the environment and have been produced commercially around the world for many years; those used by the IMPACT team are approved for field use.

They are applied very precisely to the breeding sites of the pests in stumps, providing a greener alternative to current reliance on chemical pesticides which are potentially more harmful to the environment.

The IMPACT partnership already has a strong track record in use of these agents and expects to deliver improved technology to any land users whose trees are at risk from pest infestations.

Contact: Professor Hugh Evans, Forestry Research in Wales, tel. 0300 068 0079, or Guy Pargeter, Taliesin Communications, tel. 01970 832375.


Top of the agenda for the Integrated Management of forest Pests Addressing Climate Trends (IMPACT) team is assessing just how changing climate will influence the damage caused by forest and woodland pests.

As the climate becomes warmer and wetter, the conditions may improve for Hylobius and other pests, and it is increasingly important to have effective controls tailored to each pest.

The IMPACT scientists expect future weather extremes – drought, flooding, higher and lower temperatures – to put woodlands under increasing levels of stress.

Increased stress lowers the defences of trees, opening them up to attack from insect pests such as the pine weevil, bark beetles, wood boring beetles and a wide range of root and leaf feeders, all of which affect tree growth, sometimes leading to tree death.

The key will be biological control integrated into novel monitoring regimes, concentrating especially on microbial control agents – fungi, bacteria, viruses and parasitic nematodes.

IMPACT – Integrated Management of forest Pests Addressing Climate Trends: This is a project which is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the Ireland - Wales Programme (INTERREG 4A) and part funded by Forestry Commission Wales. The project, called Integrated Management of forest Pests Addressing Climate Trends – IMPACT - is led by Forest Research in Wales, a research unit launched in 2009 based at Aberystwyth, with the National University of Ireland at Maynooth and Swansea University. It runs for three years to 31 December 2012.

Forest Research: Forest Research is the research agency of the Forestry Commission. It is a world leader in the research and development of sustainable forestry and is Britain's principal organisation for forestry and tree related research, with specialists covering topics from managing timber, and protecting woodland from climate change, to tracking new pests and diseases, and examining the social and community benefits of woodland in urban and rural areas.

Forest Research in Wales: The Forest Research in Wales Unit based in Aberystwyth, addresses research opportunities within Wales and elsewhere. Interactions with a wide range of stakeholders, particularly with Forestry Commission Wales and the Welsh Government, are being developed to scope and deliver research and appropriate technology transfer. Links with the research community in Wales, universities and government organisations fostered.

Swansea University: Swansea University is a world-class, research-led university situated in stunning parkland overlooking Swansea Bay on the edge of the Gower peninsula, the UK's first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Founded in 1920, the University now offers around 500 undergraduate courses and 150 postgraduate courses to more than 13,800 students. Visit

NUIM, Maynooth: National University of Ireland, Maynooth is one of four constituent universities of the federal National University of Ireland. The university traces its origins directly to the foundation in 1795 of St Patrick’s College, Maynooth and it is Ireland's second oldest university.

Forestry Commission Wales: About 14% of Wales is covered by woodlands. Of this, 38% (126,000 hectares/311,000 acres) is owned by the Welsh Assembly Government. Forestry Commission Wales is the Welsh Assembly Government’s department of forestry and manages these woodlands on its behalf.

More information on the woodlands of Wales is available on