Progress in the battle against ‘Ash die-back’

Scientists at Queen Mary University of London in conjunction with partners at Kew Gardens (London), Forest Research (Roslin), and Teagasc (Dublin) have published a ground-breaking paper on the battle to find native ash tree resistant to the invasive alien fungus Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, which causes ash dieback. The ‘Genomic’ approach of their work involving sequencing DNA extracted from 1,250 ash trees of known origin, across a range of infection-rates from nearly dead to remarkably healthy. They found a limited number of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) which seemed to be associated with trees showing high levels of tolerance to the disease suggesting in future, more such trees could be found by screening using these SNPs. The team of researchers concluded that ash dieback is a polygenic trait that should respond well to both natural selection and breeding the latter of which which could be particularly accelerated using the genomic prediction methods they identified.