The Second International Meeting on Mediterranean Stone Pine for Agroforestry - AgroPine2016 was held in Oeiras, Portugal. The meeting brought together more than 80 participants from Portugal, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey, Lebanon, Italy, France and Australia.

During the meeting, five main topics were discussed: Management for cone production in forests and agroforestry; Growth and yield modelling; Genetic improvement, selection and breeding of stone pine; Biotic risks and their impact on stone pine products; Pine nut industry and markets.

One important conclusion from the AgroPine2016 meeting regarding Topic 1 - Management for cone production in forests and agroforestry was the recognition that rational reference values are required for fertilization application in stone pine stands, either to correct soil nutritional needs before plantation or to increase tree vitality and cone production. Existing experiments have rendered first results, but long term experiments are essential for testing different practices, namely grafting, irrigation and fertilization. These practices will target higher cone harvestings at younger ages and lower inter-annual variability (masting).

In Topic 2 - Growth and yield modelling, advances in comprehension and quantification of biological processes involved in growth and cone yield were presented, marking as key factors mainly regional differences, as well as rainfall deficits at certain characteristic moments during cone induction and ripening. Future predictive models need to respond to the main questions, demands and concerns of stakeholders and end-users. This research requirement is challenging and probably will not be satisfied through a single and simplified modelling approach. It is difficult to reconcile the needs of different pine nut stakeholders - forest managers and planners, land owners, nut industry, policy makers and researchers. For a comprehensive understanding of tree responses to biotic and abiotic stresses, as well as of the ecological drivers for individual and regional cone production and masting, the maintenance of existing permanent plot networks that monitor cone yield and quality are essential, in order to achieve predictive capacity either through empirical or process based models.

In Topic 3, Genetic improvement, selection and breeding of stone pine, it was underlined that although Pinus pinea is widely distributed, the geographic genetic diversity across its genome is low. It is of utmost importance to quantify the genetic variability of economically important traits, such as those related to cone and kernel production, and to evaluate genetic gains achievable by selection. In Spain, for example, the genetic selection of the 10% most productive clones corresponded to a genetic gain estimated in 20 to 40% for cone yield. Catalogued basic materials for producing certified forest reproductive materials (seeds, grafting scions, plants) has been already registered in Portugal and Spain, allowing for establishing productive plantations.

Considering Topic 4, Biotic risks and their impact on stone pine products, there are now evidences that the Western Conifer Seed Bug, Leptoglossus occidentalis can considerably reduce the cone yield and quality in stone pine. The exotic insect has expanded its area since first detected in Italy in 1999 to most Europe, as well as Tunisia and Western Asia. New experimental studies have underlined the incidence and severe damages caused to conelets and seeds of Mediterranean stone pine by this pest.  L. occidentalis has hence been shown to be the main causal agent of the Dry Cone Syndrome, generalised in the last years in stone pine. This findings force the sector to face the challenge of developing an integrated pest management system for stone pine. Along with the seed bug, endemic cone-feeding insects like Dioryctria mendacella and Pissodes validirostris can also cause significant damages to pine nut production. A new pheromone will be available to monitor and control D. mendacella, but no similar options are yet available for L. occidentalis or P. validirostris.

In Topic 5, Pine nut industry and markets, Portugal have instituted a regulatory system for stone pine cones trading which applies to harvesting, transport, storage, processing, and imports/exports, similar to already existing regional traceability systems in several Spanish Autonomous Regions. One important outcome of these regulations is the knowledge and feasible data regarding regional annual cone production, agents/operators and circuits within the stone pine supply chain, in fulfilment of mandatory European Food Safety Regulation (EC) 178/2002. Cone and pine nut traceability from harvesting until final destination will not only enforce legality and hinder theft and black market, but it will allow for building consumers’ awareness of disparate pine nut botanic species, origins and quality grades. Theft, lack of quality standards regarding adequate harvest seasons and cone processing, incorrect commercial labelling of Asiatic pine nut species, and cone price speculation are considered currently important constrains to the competitiveness of Mediterranean pine nuts in global markets, a problem that requires the enforcement of due diligence and transparency in the trade of one of the most expensive nuts in the world.

The AgroPine2016 Meeting was co-organized by FAO-CIHEAM Network on Nuts, IAMZ-CIHEAM - Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Zaragoza; INIAV – Instituto Nacional de Investigação Agrária e Veterinária; ISA – Instituto Superior de Agronomia, Lisbon University; UNAC - Union of the Mediterranean Forest; INIA – Instituto National de Investigación y Tecnología Agraria y Alimentaria; FAO Committee Silva Mediterranea, and the IUFRO Unit 1.08.00 on Silviculture for production of edible fruits.


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