Chilean team confronts stone-fruit pest control - FreshFruitPortal.com

Pest control to mitigate losses in stone fruit, new project in Chile

A new project set out by Chile's government research body, the INIA, announced that it is launching a new initiative to fight losses from invasive pests on stone fruit across the country. Pest control is a big challenge for the Latin American country and at times, fruit losses can reach 15%.

Development of the project is still in the works but the labs at INIA say that its efforts to mitigate losses stem from finding naturally resistant ways to target "phytoparasitic nematodes". This is a scientific process that involves finding the parasites responsible for losses and using the already existing structures in the plants to make them resistant to them.

The initiative is different from others because it does not use external treatments to fight off the pest. Rather, it utilizes pre-existing genetics in the plant to create plant alternatives that are resistant to key parasites. Immunity was shown in plants found in various regions across Chile after being treated with the initiative's work.

What the project told us about how new plants could solve problems for Chilean producers

Pablo Meza of INIA told FreshFruitPortal that the new alternative that the project offers "will reduce the use of harmful pesticides that contain toxins that could potentially harm our fruit and health of consumers".

In the first stages of the initiative, it has been able to successfully identify particular parasites in the Central region of Chile. The majority of these pests were meloidogyne ethiopica, a parasite that impacts a variety of fruit categories.

The way the pest attacks plants is through root-stocks. So, scientists have to find a way to make root-stocks resistant to the bug.

"The presence of this particular pest places Chile in a very particularly difficult situation when it comes to harvest because plants developed to be resistant to these parasites may only show resistant qualities in specific latitudes and those conditions don't exist in the central region of the country," explained Meza.

However, the good news is that this research provides producers in the region that is faced with the most difficulty an environmentally-friendly and productive solution.

Next steps for the team involve finding specific plants that are adapted to manage pests.

Photo: INIA Chile