During the 5th International Conference on Mediterranean Pines that was held in Solsona, Spain from 22-26 September 2014, a group of participants involved in research on Mediterranean stone pines attended a side-event which was hosted by the FAO-CIHEAM Network on Nuts. Researchers and forest managers from the Iberian Peninsula, the Maghreb, Lebanon, and Chile presented their research and ongoing projects on stone pine or pine nuts.  These included the StarTree Project, the Portuguese PINEA-project, a recent Spanish-Tunisian collaboration between CTFC, IRTA and IRGREF, a project about grafted stone pine for rural development. An initiative from GIZ, Germany on pine nuts and value chain enhancement in Maghreb and in Lebanon was also discussed as well as the Chilean project FONDEF which deals wih the use of Mediterranean stone pine in Chile as a nut crop.

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The major areas of research developed by these projects were; genetic selection, growth and yield modelling, silviculture and orchard management - especially in grafted plantations-, processing, supply chain development, and stakeholder support.

Current problems and challenges for stone pine management and pine nuts supply chain, affecting forest management, the pine nut sector and the integration of its value chain were also discussed. The main issues identified centred around the lack of species-specific forest management, processing and trade standards and adequate product labelling. Cone pillage and the black market, improper harvesting, as well as an increasing yield loss, possibly due to climate change, were also highlighted.

The acute problem of the Dry Cone Syndrome gained special attention. The recent phenomenon has been described in stone pine and other species in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Turkey and confirmed in this meeting also for Lebanon. Dry Cone Syndrome is characterised by a massive abortion of unripened conelets, as well as a high percentage of empty seeds in ripened cones. The putative biotic agent is the western conifer seed bug, Leptoglossus occidentalis, an invasive alien pest from North America, where it is known to cause similar damage in native pine cones.

At the end of the meeting the group decided on further collaboration . A first target will be to analyse the current state of the art for establishing a Road Map for Research and innovation in stone pine and Mediterranean pine nuts that will define research priorities. This document shall count on feedback by stakeholders (forest owners, managers, supply chain actors, sectorial associations).

AgroPine2015 meeting is planned for next summer in Portugal and will be co-organised by the FAO-CIHEAM Research Network on Nuts and the local hosts ISA-University Lisboa and the forest owners association UNAC.

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Photo: Verónica Loewe Muñoz

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