The genetic insights could eventually be used to cross Tree 35 with breeding stock from our native ash population. Tree 35 is predominantly female and the genetic make-up could help identify a predominantly male UK tree with resistance to make a breeding pair. Or it could be used to identify both female and male UK trees with similarly low susceptibility to the fungus. A combination of crosses might be needed for a lasting comeback from the epidemic.

Ash trees are almost always fertilised by pollen from another ash tree rather than by self-pollination. This generates two copies of each chromosome in the resulting seeds. Although very similar, the chromosomes tend to have many differences when you look at the detail. This ‘heterozygosity’ makes it difficult to generate a genome sequence because in effect you have to put two genomes together at the same time.

Tree 35 has been identified as highly heterozygous.

http://www.tgac.ac.uk/home/news/54/68/Genome-sequence-for-mother-of-ash-dieback-survival/

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The scientists are extremely hopeful that, having determined the tree’s complete set of genetic material – through a process known as genome sequencing – they have paved the way to identify those genes which might be connected to its ability to withstand the fungus.

Although the breakthroughs have raised hopes that a new breed of ash will be able to grow and survive in the face of the fungus, they will do nothing to protect Britain’s 80m existing ash trees, which are all under threat.

Adult clones of tree 35 grown from cuttings taken from the original trees in the 1930s were recently discovered on the Danish island of Sealand. [However] just planting this variety of Ash in the UK would result in a narrow genetic base making the species vulnerable to future diseases, experts said, adding that the latest breakthroughs still represented a giant step forward for the long-term prospects of the tree in this country.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/genetic-secrets-of-resistant-tree-gives-new-hope-over-ash-dieback-disease-8660992.html

Scientists have sequenced the genome of a type of ash tree with resistance to the deadly fungal disease sweeping the UK.

The development could be the starting point for breeding a strain of ash to replace thousands expected to succumb to ash die-back in the next few years.

All the data is being put on a crowd sourcing website OpenAshDieBack to enable experts from around the world to help identify genes that might be connected to the trees’ ability to withstand the fungus.

These genes could then be part of a breeding programme for resistant trees.

The samples for the latest research came from so-called “tree 35”, a strain of ash from Denmark originally bred nearly 100 years ago, which has shown an ability to tolerate the fungal disease, when virtually all its Danish relatives were wiped out.

Prof Allan Downie of the John Innes Centre believes this genetic understanding of both the lethal fungal infection and the surviving strain could help fill the impending gap in the canopy.

“We’re trying to give nature a bit of a helping hand by identifying the right kind of (native) trees to do the appropriate crosses,” he said.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-22913111

The South East has been declared a “low priority” area – authorities say that because the disease is already widespread, it is not cost effective to tackle it.

Dr Alun Griffiths, microbiologist and chairman of the Kent Men of the Trees conservation charity, said the county needed better protection.

“I’ve been studying diseases around the world all my professional life,” he said.

“I’ve always thought that if you have a focus, an area where disease is being spread rapidly, that would be the place where you’d put most of your effort.

The government is planting thousands of young ash trees in the region as part of a research trial, including at the Hucking Estate near Maidstone.

Scientists hope 1% of them may survive and develop resistance in a decade’s time.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-22510873

 

Genetic resistance to ash dieback disease is to be studied at a Suffolk Wildlife Trust (SWT) nature reserve.

Scientists from the Forestry Commission are using the site at Arger Fen and Spouse’s Grove, near Sudbury, to study genetic resistance to the Chalara fungus – which causes the disease.

About 15 different strains of ash will be planted on the five acre site later this week.

The trust responded to a request from the Forestry Commission for sites.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-suffolk-22484952

I am particularly excited that the Real Life Science Studio in the John Hope Gateway will be hosting the Virtual Landscape Theatre for one week from 8th August. This interactive exhibit allows an audience to decide what actions should be taken to reduce the impact of ash dieback and to explore the implications of these choices. Intrigued? Come and find out more in August!

Diseases are a real threat to our trees and it is likely we will loose a high proportion of our ash trees. Yet, over the course of this project I started to feel more positive about the future of Scottish woodlands. It would be easy to listen to the mass media and get very depressed about the state of our forests and trees. But woodlands are dynamic and have always changed; over such long periods of time we humans find it difficult to comprehend.

We need to build resilience in the woodlands of Scotland to ensure their longevity. By this I mean managing woodlands in a way that creates diversity in the species present, diversity in the age of the trees and diversity in structure. If we do this it may be possible to maintain the ever-changing, unique woodlands of Scotland.

http://stories.rbge.org.uk/archives/2051

Scientists are now breeding the two ash trees together in the hope that they will be able to create a new generation of saplings able to survive infection by the Chalara fraxinea fungus, which causes ash dieback.

Experts have found two trees – known as tree 35 and tree 18 – among Denmark’s ruined woodland that show the highest levels of resistance to the fungus ever seen.

British scientists have teamed up with Danish researchers in a bid to find the genes responsible for protecting these plants from ash dieback.

They hope to develop a test that will allow them to find similar trees in Britain’s woodland so they can begin breeding new saplings to replace those that die as a result of the fungus.

While other ash trees in the plot withered and died as the fungus slowly spread along their branches and through their leaves, the plants grown from tree 35 and tree 18 remained strong and healthy.

The pair also were found to be a viable breeding pair – with tree 35 being predominantly female and tree 18 being predominantly male.