Suffolk: Pioneering attempt to find ash dieback resistant trees

A healthy tree next to a Un- healthy ash tree at Arger Fen, with suspected ash die back ( chalara fr

A healthy tree next to a Un- healthy ash tree at Arger Fen, with suspected ash die back ( chalara fraxinea). - Credit: Andrew Partridge

A PIONEERING drive to find trees resistant to Chalara dieback of ash could take place in Suffolk, the EADT can reveal.

Land owned by Suffolk Wildlife Trust (SWT) at Arger Fen, near Assington, has been offered to the Forestry Commission to plant a number of trees to help find ash genes that are resistant to chalara.

The newly acquired site, called Peck’s Piece, is adjacent to Hullbacks - a site of natural regeneration that includes thousands of young ash trees infected by the toxic fungus.

Julian Roughton, chief executive at the trust said the scheme was an “important opportunity” to “kick-start” the ash fight-back.

“Realistically in Suffolk we now sort of accept that ash dieback is pretty much everywhere. I think what is going to be the interesting thing for the future is when there is evidence of ash dieback, but there are healthy young ash trees coming through it,” Mr Roughton said.

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He added: “One of the things the Forestry Commission is doing is setting up an area a network of ash plantations where they will be trialling different types of ash genes to see which ones are going to be more resistant. And, what they do know from the work they’ve done in Europe, is that this resistancy is hereditary. So it does seem to give a reasonable clue that it should be possible to encourage natural resistance varieties within native population of ash.”

The SWT boss, who said they are waiting for confirmation from the Forestry Commission about the site, claimed Suffolk would make a good testing ground as the county was one of the first to affected by the widespread disease.

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Mr Roughton said: “When we got the request from the Forestry Commission that they were looking for trial areas we responded immediately to offer part of this field because we see it as such an important opportunity to kick-start the ash fight-back.

“From our point of view it’s a great site because we know there’s lots of ash dieback there and that’s the best testing ground for any young ash.”

According to the Forestry Commission’s outbreak map, there are nearly 400 cases of dieback in the UK with at least 50 in Suffolk alone. This week the first three cases of dieback of 2013 were confirmed at sites in Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion, Wales.

Mr Roughton said he expected to see a real surge in cases and public concern about infected trees in June or July when the chalara spores are released and ash yellow and die.

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