Western conifer seed bug (Leptoglossus occidentalis) challenging stone pine cropping in the Southern Hemisphere


Loewe Muñoz, Verónica Francisca - Delard R., Claudia - Del Río, Rodrigo - Balzarini, Mónica

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Stone pine edible seeds are highly appreciated and increasingly demanded. However, kernel yield (percentage of total weight corresponding to kernel) has halved in European producing countries largely due to the attack of the invasive seed-feeding insect Leptoglossus occidentalis. In the Southern Hemisphere, where new stone pine plantations have shown positive results in terms of growth, cone production and health, the exotic seed pest L. occidentalis was first detected in 2017 in Chile, with observed changes and damages having been subsequently reported. The objective of this study was to assess cone and seed traits, and kernel-per-cone yield in P. pinea in Chile before and after the detection of the regional presence of L. occidentalis in 2017. Cone, seed and kernel traits were assessed in seven plantations from central Chile from 2010 to 2015 (before L. occidentalis arrival) and from 2018 to 2019 (after the pest arrival). For the kernels, three types of insect damage were quantified: type I (endosperm/embryo damage), type II (endosperm elimination) and type III (empty seeds). Results showed an average kernel yield of 4.0 ± 0.1%, with no differences between periods. However, in Mulchén, a significant decrease was recorded in cone weight, seed weight and kernels per cone. Regarding kernel analysis, significant increases in damage types I and II were found in all plantations after 2017. Cone assignment to weight categories showed that type I (partially damaged kernel) was the most frequent (58.6%) damage in heavy cones (>550 g), and damage type II was frequent in cones of <350 g in weight (51.4%). Thus, it is necessary to monitor the advance of the insect and its effects on stone pine cropping in non-native habitats. Given that in the southern area of Latin America stone pine is grown in managed plantations, biological and/or chemical control might be applied to limit the negative impact of L. occidentalis.

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