A promising remote monitoring system offers farmers and land managers a solution to combat a pest which destroys millions of newly planted trees across Europe.
Every year, the pine weevil (Hylobius abietis) kills millions of newly planted trees, causing an estimated £5m in direct losses in the UK alone.
On sites badly affected by weevils, 100 percent 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.
Current treatments also significantly delay the re-establishment of future forest crops.
Now a new remote monitoring system designed by engineering company Spotta could offer land managers a solution.
As well as saving trees and resources, it could also help significantly reduce pesticide spraying and increase carbon sequestration.
The small device counts weevils and notifies foresters when the weevil population gets to critical levels.
This provides them with the hectare-by-hectare information they need to act at the earliest opportunity to counter the threat posed by the insect pest.
Ultimately, Spotta says 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 and forestry globally.
The Scottish government had issued £550,000 worth of investment to help Spotta boost its remote monitoring device.
Environment Minister Màiri McAllan said: “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."