Sublethal infection of different pine species by the pinewood nematode

Carla S. Pimentel, Jessica McKenney, Paulo N. Firmino, Teresa Calvão, Mathew P. Ayres

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Bursaphelenchus xylophilus, the pinewood nematode and causal agent of pine wilt disease (PWD), is a globally destructive pine pest. PWD is favoured by high temperatures and drought, but B. xylophilus can also persist in symptomless hosts in areas not prone to PWD. We compared seedlings of different Pinus species that were inoculated with B. xylophilus when well-watered and under moderate temperatures, conditions that favour sublethal infections. We compared isolates of B. xylophilus in south-west Europe (Portugal) and south-east USA (Louisiana). P. pinea, P. pinaster, and P. radiata were challenged in both areas with inoculations of local B. xylophilus. P. sylvestris in Portugal and P. palustris in Louisiana were also tested. Seedling mortality was low, as expected, but nematode establishment was common. There were higher nematode densities and more damage in seedlings of P. sylvestris and P. radiata, followed by P. pinaster, with P. pinea and P. palustris proving to be more tolerant. Life history of hosts was a better predictor of resistance to B. xylophilus than geographical origin, even under sublethal conditions. Fast-growing species (P. radiata and P. pinaster) appeared most likely to be symptomless carriers in areas not prone to the development of PWD. Cold-adapted species (P. sylvestris) may still be suitable hosts for the pathogen, even at the sublethal conditions of their distribution areas. There were more nematodes per gram of host using nematode isolates from Portugal. Nonetheless, our results opposed the hypothesis that North American pinewood nematodes have such low virulence that they are obligatorily saprophytic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1565-1573
Number of pages9
JournalPlant Pathology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020


  • Bursaphelenchus xylophilus
  • North America
  • pine forests
  • Pinus
  • Portugal
  • seedlings


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