Forest owners expressed concern about a recent invasive pest, the Western conifer seed bug (Leptoglossus occidentalis), at the new EIP-AGRI Operational Group PINEA conference. The insect was introduced accidentally from North America, and in the last few years has been causing “very serious and irreparable damage” by destroying cones and seeds before harvesting. Consequently, the production of pine nuts has since collapsed, and revenues from these forests have dropped. Employment of cone pickers and processing industries are also affected, which are strategic for rural areas and a whole way of life in Pinus pinea territories such as Castile and Leon, the host region of the conference.
In the meeting, held on 20th September in Valladolid, Spain, the PINEA Operational Group underlined the need for the involvement of all stakeholders in the pine nuts value chain (forest owners, cone pickers, processors, traders, and technicians, together with the administrations), to search for solutions for this pest as well as for improved commercialisation and marketing. The Operational Group aims to educate consumers on the demand for Iberian pine nuts and to reduce the main phytosanitary problems, including the Western conifer seed bug, that affect this Non Wood Forest Product (NWFP).
For this, the Operational Group counts also on the collaboration of the European Thematic Network INCREDIBLE, whose innovation network on Wild Nuts & Berries can contribute to achieving common objectives and improving the sector in the Iberian Peninsula. The Wild Nuts & Berries iNet coordinator highlighted the opportunities that NWFPs can have in rural areas within the framework of a bio-based economy, especially in the Mediterranean region. ‘Innovation Networks of Cork, Resins and Edibles in the Mediterranean basin’ (INCREDIBLE) is a 3-year project with funding from the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme.