Pine pitch canker - strategies for management of Gibberella circinata in greenhouses and forests (PINESTRENGTH)



Gibberella circinata is a highly virulent pathogen damaging pines, causing damping-off in nurseries and pitch canker in forests. It was first detected in North America, since when the pathogen has spread into Central and South America, South Africa, Asia and, more recently, Europe. G. circinata is now considered the most important pathogen affecting Pinus seedlings and mature trees in many countries globally; asymptomatic seedlings may be planted out, resulting in very serious losses in forests. Nevertheless, there has been little research on G. circinata in Europe to date and little information is available overall on host range in Europe, pathogen spread and disease control. The main aim of this Action is to establish a European-focused network to increase knowledge of the biology, ecology and pathways of spread of G. circinata, to examine the potential for the development of effective and environmentally-friendly prevention and mitigation strategies and to deliver these outcomes to stakeholders and policy makers. To that end, a multidisciplinary approach will be taken, including researchers, forest managers and policy makers from 34 countries focused on the common problem of pitch canker, making PINESTRENGTH highly innovative.



The aim of the PINESTRENGTH Action is to collect and collate the current state-of-art knowledge on pitch pine canker caused by Gibberella circinata, in order to increase understanding of the problem and the pathogen so that plans for the integrated management of pine pitch canker and to reduce the probability of further introductions into currently disease-free countries, can be established in Europe.

This aim is addressed through the following four objectives:

Objective 1: to develop and recommend suitable, practical tools, techniques and methodologies for rapid and sensitive detection and efficient monitoring of G. circinata in plant materials and in pathways of potential spread.

State-of-art of methods will be collated to (i) determine suitable approaches, timing, frequency and methodology for surveys and sampling, (ii) identify and evaluate the best available biological/molecular techniques for G. circinata diagnostics.

Objective 2: to collect and collate published information on the biology and ecology of G. circinata and other pine pests and pathogens with high potential to interact with pitch canker.

Knowledge of the biology and ecology of G. circinata will be collated and information on abiotic and biotic factors influencing disease development synthesized. The implications of other pine pests and pathogens and their potential interactions with G. circinata will be also examined to implement this knowledge into strategies for integrated disease management. Furthermore, this knowledge will serve to delineate the pathways of pitch canker disease spread from nurseries to the field and assess the utility of the current Pest Risk Analysis for G. circinata under present and future climate change scenarios.

Objective 3: to develop effective and environmentally-friendly control strategies for pitch canker.

Host responses to pathogen infection will be examined in order to improve knowledge on and to develop morphological markers for pitch canker-resistant genotypes and provenances. An assessment of current control methods used worldwide and novel methods for management explored, with emphasis on the use of biological control agents in the nursery, and on individual tree and landscape scales. Along with the silvicultural methods, these data will enable sustainable integrated management for pitch canker to be established.

Objective 4: to raise awareness of pine pitch canker and disseminate the outcomes of these activities to stakeholders, policy makers and other interested parties.

The ecological, economic and social impacts of pitch canker will be investigated, detailed and summarized to raise awareness of the importance of this pathogen in forestry for forest managers and policy makers. Combined results from the work will enable future research needs to be assessed, in order to fill knowledge gaps. Finally, dissemination of results will be a priority commitment of the PINESTRENGTH partners.



PINESTRENGTH will tackle this invasive disease problem from a multidisciplinary approach, compiling current knowledge of G. circinata from global sources in order to answer fundamental questions, co-ordinating ongoing research projects, identifying knowledge gaps, acting as a platform to foster new research programmes that deal with these gaps and elaborating guidelines for integrated management of the disease. The primary tasks covered in the PINESTRENGTH Action are:

Task 1: Determining suitable approaches, timing, frequency and methodology for surveys and sampling

Task 2: Identifying and evaluating the best available molecular techniques for G. circinata diagnostics

Task 3: Assessing the potential interactions between other pine pathogens and G. circinata

Task 4: Assessing the potential interactions of other forest pests with G. circinata

Task 5: Synthesizing environmental data on pitch canker epidemiology and spread on a Europewide scale

Task 6: Assessing the pathways of pitch canker disease spread, with emphasis on nurseries to the field

Task 7: Pest Risk Analysis for G. circinata

Task 8: Estimating the economic and social impacts of pitch canker

Task 9: Determining host responses to pathogen infection, acquiring knowledge on pitch canker resistant genotypes and provenances

Task 10: Assessment of current control methods used worldwide and exploring the utilization of novel management methods, with emphasis on application of biological controls at the nursery, individual tree and landscape scale

Task 11: Coordination of the Working groups

Task 12: Identification of future research needs – coping with knowledge gaps

Task 13: Dissemination of results – establishing communication mechanisms to stakeholders and other target audiences




Working Group 1. Diagnosis aimed at harmonizing a common methodology to monitor the presence of G. circinata in Europe, so reference laboratories and mandated diagnostic laboratories will have a tool to carry out rapid and sensitive detection of the pathogen along pathways of dispersal

Working Group 2. Interactions with other forest pests and pathogens aimed at collating information concerning potential synergic effects with other pathogens and pests and the role of the latter as potential vectors of G. circinata

Working Group 3. Pathway of disease spread aimed at shedding light on factors determining epidemiology and spread of pine pitch canker, including environmental conditions that favour outbreaks once established and potential pathways that favour the dispersal towards free-disease regions

Working Group 4. Pest Risk Analyses aimed at assessing the current and potential European risk for G. circinata based on future climate change scenarios. Furthermore, this pest risk assessment will result in estimations of economic and social impacts of Pitch Canker

Working Group 5. Management of pine pitch canker in forests and nurseries aimed at synthesizing information concerning host resistance and utilization of biological control methods as alternatives to chemical treatments

Working Group 6. Coordination, identifying research gaps and dissemination aimed at coordinating WGs 1-5 and compile their outcomes, identify knowledge gaps and acting as a platform for prioritising research areas and formulate new projects. Furthermore, it is aimed at providing timely dissemination of information from PINESTRENGTH, with emphasis on stakeholders and other target audiences beyond COST participants