There is another potential, and even more serious threat to ash trees in Europe - the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) or Agrilus planipennis (a type of Jewel Beetle). This beetle is moving westward and southward from Moscow through Russia, progressing at up to 25 miles/year.
In North America, some 7 billion ash trees are potentially under threat from EAB, which puts the UK situation into perspective. EAB attacks result in up to 100% mortality. We need to enforce strict biosecurity measures to prevent the beetle becoming established in the UK in the future
Recent collaborative research has for the first time in trees, used a technique called 'Associative Transcriptomics', to identify 3 gene sequences which are linked to reduced susceptibility to Ash Dieback caused by H. fraxineus. By identifying potentially resistant trees in the field, we may begin breeding programs using these resistant trees.
Association genetics can quickly and efficiently delineate regions of the genome that control traits and provide markers to accelerate breeding by marker-assisted selection. However, as most crops are polyploid, it is hard to identify the required markers and assemble a genome sequence to order those markers.
Recently, researchers developed 'Associative Transcriptomics', which uses transcriptome sequencing to identify and score molecular markers representing variation in both gene sequences and gene expression, and correlate this with trait variation.
Enriched 'Biochar' was applied to the soil around ash trees in a trial, to see what effect this had on tree growth. Surprisingly, whilst many untreated neighbouring trees have been infected with Ash Dieback, none of the trees treated with Biochar have the disease. A PhD study has been commissioned to look at the potential for increasing resistance to ash dieback by applying enriched Biochar.