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Wednesday, 27 November 2013 00:00

Scientists develop a biological method that improves treatment and pest control in the olive tree

Researchers from the ceiA3 research group of Agricultural Entomology at the School of Agricultural Engineering and Forestry University of Cordoba (UCO) have developed a method that allows using fungus as a ‘wound dressing’ in order to protect olive trees from the injuries caused by the pruning, hailstones, or those caused by any other origin, with the attack of the Euzophera pinguis moth.

According to the experts of the Technical Association of Integrated Production of the Olive Grove (ATIPIOlivar), that insect is very much extended in the Mediterranean, and apart of causing the death of many young olive trees, it is responsible for diminishing production in adult trees. The research team from the University of Cordoba focused its research on the use of the fungus Beauveria Bastiana. This fungus is capable of protecting, in a sustainable and biological manner ,the olive tree from the possible damages caused by the Euzophera pinguis moths.

In the article entitled: ‘Beauveria bassiana (Ascomycota: Hypocreales) wound dressing for the control of Euzophera pinguis (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae)’ that was published at the Journal of Economic Entomology, the team of experts demonstrated that the stump of this Beauveria bassiana fungus (obtained from the larvae of the moth naturally suffering that disease) can cure the wounds caused by the Euzophera pinguis and thus, between 60 and 90% of the olive trees were recovered after 60 days of treatment. Mr. Enrique Quesada-Moraga, researcher of the University of Cordoba explains to the Discover Foundation that “the results of this treatment have shown that this fungus can cure the affected olive trees in the same way that the Clorpirifos, the only chemical insecticide authorized nowadays to control this insect, and furthermore, this method is more environmental friendly”.

The experiments were developed in Jaén (Mancha Real) between 2008 and 2011 and always during spring and autumn, seasons when the Euzophera pinguis moth can be found in the cultivated fields. Mr. Quesada-Moraga explains that they conducted an experiment consisting in dividing the olive trees into 3 groups of 20 olive trees each, and that they artificially made a wound of 30X33 millimetres of width and 17 millimetres of depth to the trees in order to it make easier for the insect to attack the trees. He adds that they used a different treatment for each group of trees: for the first one they used Clorpirifos, for the second one the Beauveria Bastiana fungus and finally they left the third one without applying any treatment.  Finally, and after studying and comparing samples at the laboratory, they found that this fungus effectiveness to cure the wound is similar to the use of the Clorpirifos insecticide, and also that it is less harmful for the environment and the secondary fauna of the olive tree.

Application to other pests
Thanks to the positive results of this research, the team has created new research lines aiming at developing similar strategies for cure different pests affecting the olive grove, as for example the olive tree fly or the barrenillos.  In addition, the research group will continue to study this type of biological treatment in further detail in order to develop a common strategy to fight it.

These results of this study come from a project carried out by the Agricultural Entomology research group of the department of science and agricultural and forest resource of the University of Cordoba with the cooperation of the Jaen company Nustesca. This project is focused on the study of entompathogenic microorganisms in the areas of the province of Jaen, where the E. pinguis lives, and also evaluates its potential for phytophagous control.

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