Plant Health Conference 2018

Threat of ash dieback to our much loved ash trees was the topic of a Conference at the Earth Trust on 17th October

This October Earth Trust hosted its first Plant Health research conference and showcased the importance of plant collections, like our very own Paradise Wood, in enabling ground breaking research into diseases that threaten the UK’s trees and woodlands, such as ash dieback. We welcomed eminent speakers from Forestry Research, Defra and Royal Botanic Gardens Kew.

Growing numbers of pests and pathogens are having a significant impact on our native trees. Research is the key to tackling these diseases and on Wednesday 17th October, Earth Trust presented findings from the Living Ash Project, an Earth Trust led, Defra funded, collaboration.

The Living Ash Project sought to identify and secure ash trees that showed tolerance to Chalara ash dieback for a future breeding programme. Based in South Oxfordshire, Paradise Wood is a national research woodland, and is now the largest living genetic collection of hardwood forestry trees and trials in Britain. Professor Richard Buggs, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, explained how a special ash tree from Paradise Wood played an important role in accelerating the search for tolerance to ash dieback. This was published in Nature in 2016.

This conference presented the results of the Living Ash Project and reported on exciting new research approaches using genomic selection for identifying characteristics such as disease tolerance, faster growth or superior timber quality. These research collaborations have relied upon access to collections of trees and highlight how important woodlands like Paradise Wood are and highlight the need to protect these resources” said Jayne Manley, Chief Executive of Earth Trust.

The Plant Heath Conference included presentations from Professor Richard Buggs (RGB, Kew), Lisa Smith (Defra), Sir Harry Studholme (Chair of the Forestry Commission), and Clare Trivedi (RBG, Kew), as well as the Living Ash Project partners. Unfortunately disruption at Paddington station prevented the conference being opened by Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Rural Affairs and Biosecurity).

The day concluded with a tour of Earth Trust plant collections: Paradise Wood, Neptune Wood and Broad Arboretum.

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