Diseases known as 'pine wilt' and 'pitch canker' are those which affect conifer plantations in the Basque Country the most, especially Pinus radiata, the most common tree species in this Autonomous Community. Researchers at the Basque Institute for Agricultural Research and Development, Neiker-Tecnalia, have managed to find genetic material resistant to both pathologies, opening up great possibilities, through genetic enhancement, for achieving trees immune to them. Likewise the researchers consider that correct forestry management could significantly limit the pernicious effect of both diseases, even to the point of eradication in the case of 'pitch canker'.
Pinus radiata occupies 42% of the forest-covered terrain on the slopes of the Cantabrian range of mountains in the Basque Country witch is about 145,000 hectares. This abundance has meant monoculture in many regions and where many health problems are detected, such as those due to climatic factors, nutritional deficiencies, attacks by plagues of insects such as the pine processionary caterpillar and the bark beetle and, above all, diseases of a fungal nature, i.e. those caused by fungi. Amongst these latter, those which have greater impact on the plantations of pinus radiata are the 'pine wilt' and 'pitch canker', caused by the Diplodia pinea and Fusarium circinatum fungi respectively.
The Neiker-Tecnalia research has opened up an important way to tackle the two diseases. The researchers analysed the 15 most common species in the plantations of conifers in Spain. In each one of these species they found examples resistant to both fungi. Once the resistant trees are selected, they can be used to generate clones that will not be affected. Genetic enhancement is, therefore, one of the most suitable ways to combat these diseases.
This research was the basis of the PHD thesis of Ignacio Garca Serna witch has been directed by Dr. Eugenia Iturritxa, in char
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