Friday, 14 August 2015

Ash dieback disease hits my neck of the woods

Death in our midst. Potentially healthy looking Ash saplings surround one that has already succumbed to the disease - will it be their turn next? 
Back on the 24th May 2013, I wrote a piece on this blog about Chalara dieback in Ash trees, saying that it spreading out of control across the country. Well, it’s arrived in my neck of the woods - here in central Hampshire, and I am now finding it fairly regularly, mainly in small and medium sized saplings, but in a couple of cases, in trees as high as 10 metres.

The disease was first confirmed in the UK in February 2012 when it was found in a consignment of infected trees sent from a nursery in the Netherlands to a nursery in Buckinghamshire. It has since spread to most parts of the UK.

At present we do not know what percentage of trees will become infected, but in Denmark well over 90% of Ash trees have succumbed to the disease. The hope is that our UK trees have a wider genetic base than on the continent, and the best hope for the long-term future of Britain's ash trees lies in identifying the genetic factors which enable some ash trees to tolerate or resist infection, and using these to breed new generations of tolerant ash trees for the future.

So, there is not much we can do but watch and see how the disease progresses throughout our native Ash trees, all the while hoping that a good number will be resistant and in time, spread their windblown, resilient keys (Ash seeds are called keys) to restock areas that have succumbed to this particularly nasty disease. 

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