UK scientists have unravelled the genetic code of the ash dieback fungus.

The DNA “blueprint” contains clues to how the pathogen attacks ash trees and possibly, in the long term, how to stop the epidemic, say genetic researchers.

A team at The Sainsbury Laboratory (TSL) and the John Innes Centre in Norwich sequenced the RNA of an infected ash twig in December.

They have now cracked the DNA sequence of three samples of the fungus in a matter of weeks.

The data is being published on the crowd sourcing website OpenAshDieBack in a £2.4m project funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

A type of ash tree in Denmark, known as Tree 35, – which makes up 2% of the Danish ash tree population – has managed to survive the epidemic.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-21433466

Two trade bodies, the Horticultural Trades Association and the Confederation of Forest Industries, warned the Commission of the potential threat of fungal disease in 2009.

But despite this 70,400 trees were brought in from abroad and now ash dieback- or chalara fraxinea – is now threatening to wipe out 80 million trees in Britain.

The infected Forestry Commission sites include Thetford Forest, in Norfolk, one of the biggest lowland forests in England with more than 19,000 hectares of woodland.

Also affected are Rendlesham Wood, a 1,500 hectare forest in Suffolk; Theberton Wood, a 25 hectare patch of woodland in Suffolk; Eggringe Wood, which forms part of a stretch of woodland on the Kent Downs covering 1,598 hectares; and the 400 hectare Elham Park Wood in east Kent.

The Forestry Commission also had to destroy 50,000 saplings at Dalbeatie Forest in Dumfries and Galloway after they were found to be infected.

It is understood the 70,000 imported ash trees represented 4.2 per cent of the total planted.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthnews/9769588/Forestry-Commission-planted-70000-imported-ash-trees-despite-warnings.html

“They’re just being starved,” site manager William Cranstoun says of the infected trees, which lose precious water to the attacking fungus. Saplings less than 8 years old are in danger of dying within months. “The thing that’s worrying is the rate that it happens,” Cranstoun says.

The government of Prime Minister David Cameron, which is implementing the deepest public spending cuts in a generation, has been accused of mounting a slow and fumbling response to the deadly incursion of Chalara fraxinea.

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-britain-ash-trees-20121216,0,4749739.story?track=rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+latimes%2Fnews%2Fnationworld%2Fworld+%28L.A.+Times+-+World+News%29

Some scientists say the fungus now ravaging trees across Europe is the same as a native species from Japan.

However, the Asian version of the fungus seems to cause no harm to the local Manchurian ash trees there.

Researchers speaking to the Radio 4 programme The Tree Scientists described the misidentification of the fungus.

Joan Webber, principal pathologist at the Forestry Commission, told the programme: “Scientists working together in Japan and Germany have been looking at a fungus associated with native ash trees in Japan. And what they’ve found is that this fungus appears to be the same one causing ash dieback in Europe and now in Britain.”

“Currently when it infects a nursery for instance, it kills all of the saplings, by killing its host it ultimately leads to its own demise and itself dies out. A successful fungus co-exists with its host tree, so they will both survive.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-20680252

Action against the deadly fungus threatening the UK’s ash trees was delayed by a lack of qualified plant pathologists, MPs were told on Tuesday. Government scientists being questioned by parliament’s environment committee also said border controls against the rising number of invasive plant pests were not working, while committee chair Anne McIntosh said it was “staggering” that the amount of imported firewood – a potential infection risk – was unknown.

The Forestry Commission recommended in July 2011 that ash trees should only be imported from areas free of the Chalara fraxinea fungus, but an import ban was only imposed in October 2012. At least 136 of the 291 infected sites now identified in the UK resulted from imported trees.

In November, Prof James Brown, president of the British Society of Plant Pathology, told the Guardian the job losses in plant science were “severe”. He said: “Britain is not producing graduates with the expertise needed to identify and control plant diseases in our farms and woodlands.”

a key measure put forward in the action plan – developing strains of ash trees that are naturally resistant to Chalara – would take 10 years or more to bear fruit.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/dec/11/ash-dieback-plant-scientists-environment-committee

The disease has swept Europe and should never have been allowed to arrive here on imported trees. Along with the government, nurseries, land managers and other organisations, we must hold up our hands. We should have investigated our supply chain more thoroughly, uncovered this threat and worked hard to challenge it. We are determined to ensure this will never happen again.

http://treedisease.co.uk/what-we-are-doing/

 

Robin Maynard, campaigns director for the Countryside Restoration Trust, was not surprised tree disease was at a record high before ash dieback arrived.

He blamed the globalisation of the plant trade that is bringing in new diseases from abroad and the trend for “instant landscaping” that means gardeners demand exotic fully-grown trees.

“The horticultural trade has increased massively but inspection and biosecurity measures have not,” he said.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthnews/9678776/Ash-dieback-came-after-tree-disease-already-at-record-high.html