Hope for Britain’s Ash trees

Britain’s Ash trees have been in the news over the last few years due to the sudden and unstoppable infections of Chalara fraxinea, apparently introduced through some nurseries.  This disease was predicted to be as devastating as the Dutch Elm Disease outbreaks in the middle of last century.  However, new research seems to have given Britain’s Ash forests some hope.

Researchers at University of York and the John Innes Centre have identified genetic markers that indicate Ash trees that are resistant to the fungus Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, which causes Ash dieback.

These markers can be used to identify trees that can then be grown on and their seed used to grow disease-resistant trees to replace that thousands or millions that we might lose over the next few decades.

This is indeed great news, however with changes in climate and the recent upsurge of pathogenic tree diseases, the call for more trees to be grown in Britain is growing louder.  Many tree diseases and pests have reached our shores on imported nursery trees from the continent.  Others, such as the Emerald Ash Borer, have smuggled their way in in packing crates or hitched a ride in other ways.

Nevertheless, this is a fantastic achievement by UK scientists, which shows the power of modern scientific techniques.  The gloomy predictions of the loss of around 80 million British Ash trees may now never become a reality.

For the full article in the Daily Telegraph, please click here.

For the Forestry Commission assessment of the potential impacts of Ash dieback in Scotland, click here.