Science

Giant batch of 3,000 trees is planted to battle a devastating fungal disease


Giant batch of 3,000 trees is planted to battle a devastating fungal disease predicted to kill more than half of all ash specimens over the next decade

  • Trees planted in Hampshire grown from specimens with tolerance for disease
  • Fungus is a major threat and may cost £7billion over the next decade 
  • Scientists screened more than 150,000 trees which showed resistance to fungus

A giant plantation of 3,000 ash trees has been created to tackle a devastating killer disease.

Each of the trees planted in Hampshire has been grown from specimens with a high tolerance for the disease ash dieback.

The fungus is a major threat, predicted to kill over half of all ash trees at a cost of £7billion over the next decade.

A giant plantation of 3,000 ash trees has been created to tackle devastating ash dieback disease

A giant plantation of 3,000 ash trees has been created to tackle devastating ash dieback disease

To protect the country’s 125million ash trees, scientists screened more than 150,000 trees which showed resistance to the fungus over five years. The best trees were grown in a nursery before being planted, which could in future lead to an ash tree breeding programme.

It is hoped the plantation will fight off ash dieback, which leaves diamond-shaped scars on the bark of trees, causes them to lose their leaves and kills up to 99 per cent of those it infects.

The ‘ash archive’ scheme comes as the Daily Mail’s Be A Tree Angel campaign, run with the Tree Council charity, is set to see thousands of trees planted nationwide.

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Nicola Spence, the Environment Department’s chief plant health officer, said: ‘It is vital that we continue to work on securing our ash trees for the future, so I’m thrilled to see the progress.’ 

It is hoped that the ash archive, established with £1.9million of Government funding, will provide seeds for ash trees which could be sold to farmers and garden nurseries, as well as homeowners. 

The fungus is a major threat, predicted to kill over half of all ash trees at a cost of £7billion over the next decade

The fungus is a major threat, predicted to kill over half of all ash trees at a cost of £7billion over the next decade

The last tree in the archive was planted to mark the start of the International Year of Plant Health, a global initiative to highlight the importance of healthy plants and trees.

Biosecurity minister Lord Gardiner said: ‘The International Year of Plant Health is a timely reminder of the importance of our natural environment and the action that is required, from Government and beyond, to protect our island’s rich heritage of trees and plants from dangerous diseases such as ash dieback.

‘The readers of the Daily Mail are conscious of the worth of our trees as demonstrated by them stepping up to the Mail’s fantastic campaign, which has already enlisted so many and continues to gather momentum for thousands of more trees to be planted.’ 



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