Living Ash Project (LAP)

As Chalara ash-dieback spreads across the British Isles, the wider objectives of the LAP are to identify and secure ash trees that show good tolerance to the disease, and use these individuals to form the nucleus of a future ash breeding programme.

The project will screen the many thousands of trees already planted under the existing ash breeding  programme, and will use citizen science to screen the wider ash population in native and planted woodlands, streets and hedgerows. The objective is to produce trees that show good tolerance to the fungus, and plant them on the public forest estate as an archive which can then be made available to the forest industry.

The specific objectives of Forest Research in the LAP are to establish new genetic trails to investigate the variation and heritability of tolerance and so determine the scope for breeding our way out of the Chalara problem, and develop tissue culture techniques to enable us to rapidly produce large numbers of any tolerant trees identified, for use in future reforestation.

Research objectives

New progeny trials:

  • Plant around 40,000 ash seedlings in half-sibling progeny trials over three sites in Britain (and possibly one in Denmark) where Chalara is already known to occur;
  • Monitor the trials for genetic variation of tolerance to the disease;
  • Select tolerant trees;
  • Determine the heritability for tolerance between ash trees and the likelihood of forming a breeding population of tolerant trees.

Tissue Culture techniques:

  • Develop reliable techniques for the mass production of selected ash tree using tissue culture techniques;
  • Develop methods of long-term storage of ash tissue in liquid nitrogen (cryo-storage).

Results so far

  • Press release at launch
  • Half-sibling seed have been collected from 50 unrelated trees in a Breeding Seed Orchard (BSO) belonging to Earth Trust
  • All seed are currently being stratified
  • Sowing of seed will commence at a commercial nursery in spring 2015 for field planting in spring 2016
  • An investigation into Tissue culture techniques has started using a general mixed collection form the Earth Trust BSO
  • Developments are at an early stage
  • No work into cryopreservation has been started yet.

Status

  • Programme started in August 2013; end date July 2018
  • Currently in its second year the project is on track to meet its various objectives

Contact

Steve Lee

Funders and partners

  • THAPBI is funded under the auspices of the Living With Environmental Change Partnership with support from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Economic and Social Research Council, Forestry Commission, Natural Environment Research Council and the Scottish Government
  • Main funder (80%) is BBSRC as part of the LWEC framework
  • Forestry Commission funds the balance (20%).
  • Key Partners are:

Forestry Commission policy
This project is seen as a major contribution to the objectives of the joint Defra-Forestry Commission ‘ Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Action Plan’.