30 Nov 2021

Scottish Government funding secures tree pest solution

Environment Minister,  Màiri McAllan, today welcomed the news that a £550,000 Scottish Government research investment has delivered a pest management solution that could have global implications for forest management, the environment and for Climate Emergency mitigation.

Every year, the pine weevil (Hylobius abietis) kills millions of newly planted trees across Europe, causing an estimated £5m in direct losses in the UK alone. Current treatments also significantly delay the re-establishment of future forest crops.

Now, thanks to the Scottish Government funding a remote monitoring system designed by engineering company, Spotta, offers a solution.

As well as saving trees and resources, the new system will both significantly reduce pesticide spraying and increase carbon sequestration.

Ms McAllan, said;

“Forestry and woodland creation are key to Climate Emergency mitigation and to Scotland achieving Net Zero, so it is vital that newly planted trees are given every opportunity to grow.

“Tree pests are a serious threat to the economic, social and environmental benefits that forestry provides and finding solutions that help manage them effectively is a huge benefit – not just here in Scotland but potentially much further afield.

“This innovative solution is a tremendous benefit for the forestry sector and the environment.”

On sites badly affected by weevils, 100% of saplings can be destroyed in just a few weeks.

Weevils are active mainly at night and detecting their presence currently involves repeated site visits and seeing damage that has already been done.

The new solution is a small device that counts weevils and notifies foresters when the weevil population gets to critical levels. This provides foresters with the hectare-by-hectare information they need to act at the earliest opportunity to counter the threat posed by the insect pest. Ultimately, this saves time and trees, reduces pesticide use and increases productivity.

The solution is applicable anywhere that the weevils are present and has also been adapted to target  other pests in agriculture (e.g. red palm weevil in UAE and Saudi Arabia) and forestry globally.

The development team included Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the Scottish government, the Scottish Funding Council and Forestry and Land Scotland.