Ash Research Strategy: UK to plant disease-resistant trees

ash research strategy
© iStock/mikedabell

UK scientists will plant trees showing tolerance to the destructive disease ash dieback in an ‘ash tree archive’ as part of the government’s new Ash Research Strategy.

Yesterday the UK’s Biosecurity Minister Lord Gardiner announced the launch of the Ash Research Strategy, which is aimed at collating and analysing evidential data on the UK’s existing ash trees and the threats they face from disease and pests, including ash dieback and the emerald ash borer beetle.

Lord Gardiner said: “Today is a day to acknowledge the sound progress that has been made and I am delighted that we are launching a Vision and High Level Strategy for Ash Research. This document lays out priority themes for research and, in the longer term, how it will deliver the restoration of our landscapes. Defra is already committed to funding several key research activities. Just one innovative example is the ongoing screening by Forest Research and Future Trees Trust for ash trees tolerant to ash dieback. In early 2020 the Trust will be planting an archive of tolerant trees which will be a key resource for a future breeding programme.”

The Ash Research Strategy was developed by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in partnership with academics and scientists, environmental bodies, landowners and the forestry, horticultural and landscape sectors; with policy objectives including mitigating outbreaks of ash-specific disease and pests, restoring the UK’s ash ecosystems and promoting ‘ash-assisted biodiversity’. The ash archive will see scions from trees which have demonstrated resistance to ash dieback cultivated in nurseries in anticipation of planned planting in 2020.

Defra’s Chief Plant Health Officer Nicola Spence said: “Since ash dieback was identified in 2012, we have invested more than £6m [€6.77m] in ash dieback research and £4.5m to strengthen border security. We currently have some of the strongest import controls in Europe. But we want to go even further to protect our ash trees which is why we have developed the ash research strategy, a new document which will help us determine how to ensure ash trees remain in our landscape for future generations to enjoy.”

Jo Clark, Head of Research at FTT and project lead for the Living Ash Project, said: “We are really excited to be working with Forest Research and Defra. These trees show a high degree of tolerance to ash dieback and have been sourced from trials and stands right across the country. The forest industry has come together to help identify these trees for future breeding work.”

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