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Friday 20 October 2017

Teagasc in search for trees resistant to ash disease

Deadly: tree showing signs of ash dieback disease infection
Deadly: tree showing signs of ash dieback disease infection

Claire Fox

Breeding trees for resistance is the best solution to tackle the rising number of cases of Ash Dieback in Ireland, according to leading forestry experts.

The number of our native Irish trees hit by the disease is expected to climb this year, with official figures showing 322 cases recorded last year, up from 115 in 2015.

Teagasc research officer Dr Gerry Douglas said that identifying ash trees that are highly tolerant to the disease will allow for the breeding of resistant strains.

"We can breed trees for resistance. There are usually one or two highly tolerant trees in every 100 trees," said Gerry, who is currently working on a Europe-wide project involved in breeding tolerant ash trees.

"They might get some speckles of the disease but they are highly tolerant. Over the course of time we can pick trees that are healthy and breed them to combat the disease."

After first being identified in 2012 in Co Leitrim, Ash Dieback has spread nationwide and the number of cases has risen year on year.

By the end of 2016, the disease was present in all 26 counties. The number of hedgerow detections increased from 12 in 2015 to 17 last year.

Teagasc forestry advisor Steven Meyen added that it's important to prevent diseased timber from entering the country if we want to tackle the disease.

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"Of all trees, it's saddest of all that this is happening to ash. It provides us with excellent timber and is important for construction, firewood and furniture. It's also very historically significant and, of course, used in hurleys," he said.

Ash Dieback becomes apparent in trees if leaves turn brown in colour and wilt and hang from their branches. It can spread to the entire branch and cause major damage to the tree if it spreads to the trunk.


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