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Ash dieback project launches International Year of Plant Health - Defra

The Ash Archive initiative is a major step towards maintaining and restoring ash in the British landscape.

Three thousand trees have been planted in Hampshire as part of a pioneering project to tackle the devastating tree disease, Ash Dieback.

Ash tree leaves. Credit: Forestry Commission.
Ash tree leaves. Credit: Forestry Commission.

The UK’s first Ash Archive has been established using £1.9 million of government funding and is the culmination of projects spanning 5 years to identify ash with a high tolerance to the disease.

The archive is a major step towards maintaining and restoring ash in the British landscape. It is intended that it will provide the basis for a breeding programme of tolerant ash over time and will enable the development of orchards producing commercially available seed.

Today (17 January 2020), the government’s Chief Plant Health Officer will visit the project to plant one of the last trees in the archive. The ceremony marked the beginning of the International Year of Plant Health – a global initiative to raise awareness on the importance of healthy plants and trees to protecting nature, the environment and boosting economic development.

Ash dieback is a highly destructive disease which was first identified in the UK in 2012. The fungus penetrates the leaves of ash trees, before growing inside the tree eventually blocking its water transport systems and causing it to die. Spores of the fungus travel in the wind, meaning the disease spreads easily and making it difficult to limit its impact. However, projects to identify trees which are tolerant to the disease mean that the population could recover over time.