Pine nut trees in the southern U.S. are being hit by an epidemic of disease and pests that have been spreading since they were planted nearly 70 years ago.
But there’s a twist: The trees are being protected by the trees themselves, which have the ability to remove the pests and diseases that are threatening them.
It’s a problem that has been brewing since the pine nuts were first planted in the South in the 1930s.
But it has become a problem in recent years because of the growing popularity of maple syrup, a highly nutritious food that has grown in popularity.
So much so that maple syrup is now the number one ingredient in almost all the food and beverage products that people are buying in the U.K., Australia and Canada, according to the U of T’s food and beverages research center.
“There’s a really big gap between what people are consuming and what they’re eating and the quality of the food that they’re actually getting,” says Chris Breen, the research director for the university’s Institute for Food and Agriculture and a co-author of the new study.
Breen says maple syrup has a higher nutritional value than most other fruits and vegetables.
“People are actually buying that stuff,” he says.
“That’s the biggest thing that’s holding back maple syrup from becoming a big player.”
Breen’s team studied the health and sustainability of more than 50 different pine nut species and found that the nut trees they planted were the main culprits in the disease problem.
Breen says the trees were the ones that were most at risk for pests, and the most resistant to the diseases.
“We have a lot of trees that are very hardy,” he explains.
“We’re seeing them get hit pretty hard.”
The researchers found that most of the diseases that were killing pine nut populations were not native to the area.
“In the past, we’ve had a lot more of a focus on the impact of human activity and the environment, but that doesn’t mean that’s the only thing that can affect a tree,” says Breen.
“The tree is just as important as the environment.
The environment is a big part of what we’re doing.”
Brien says the tree has been around for hundreds of years, but the disease outbreaks that have become a major concern have come about since it was planted.
“So when they’re planting new trees, they are taking their trees, the species that were originally there, and they’re replanting,” he said.
“And then we’re starting to see that we’re seeing a resurgence of diseases like blight, and then we see that the tree is being pushed to the edges of its natural range.”
Branching out to other areasBreen points to a few areas that could be in danger of becoming the next victims.
He says that if there are more trees planted, those that are most at-risk for disease could spread to other parts of the pine nut area.
For instance, if a tree is planted in an area that’s near a river, that’s where it’s more likely to get infected, he says, which could cause diseases like maple syrup.
Branting out to the other side of the globeThe researchers also looked at the impact the maple syrup had on other crops like sugarcane and walnuts.
They found that pine nut syrup is also a major contributor to sugarcanes and walnut plantations in the region.
“What that means is that if you have an area with a lot pine nut, you could potentially be seeing some of that as well,” says Brodie.
Brien said it’s not just the maple tree that is being affected.
“When you’re looking at this in terms of the impact on the other species, you also have the impact that’s being made on the pine tree itself,” he explained.
Brennan says that, if you’re not in a good position to grow your own food, you’re going to need to buy it from others.
“I think we’re going into a new era where we’re talking about how to grow food for the global population and it’s really important that we have the resources to do that,” he adds.
Brees says there’s still time for everyone to take action and support the growth of the industry in this country.
“It’s time to do something about this, and that’s what I would suggest to people,” he added.
“That’s why we have to do more research, and I would encourage people to do their own research to see what their options are and what is available to them.
It’s a matter of doing your research.”
The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE.