Forest Research is working in close collaboration with DEFRA under a new contract called ‘Living Ash Project’ to find ash trees that may be tolerant to Chalara ash die-back.
Along with members of the Earth Trust near Oxford, seed has been collected from ash trees which were previously part of the ash improvement programme before Chalara ash die-back came along. They are looking to find ash trees that are tolerant to the Chalara fungus, but also have better than average growth rate and stem straightness.
Trees are currently being raised in the Forest Research Chalara-free tree nursery in Scotland, and by spring 2016 they want to have planted 3 sites in Britain. Each site will have to be 2 hectares (5 acres) of uniform land thought to grow good ash trees. The site will be protected with a 2 metre high rabbit/stock/and deer fence. Forest Research will pay for all the establishment costs including the fence and planting of the trees. They will require regular access to the site for maintenance and assessment reasons; this means they would require a 5-year ‘Access Agreement’ with the site owner. They would also retain the exclusive rights to the IP of any trees selected on the site. After the 5-year period they hand the site back to the owner who may want to take advantage of planting the fenced area with another species.
If they are lucky enough to find some larger sites they do have an additional experiment of just 0.5 hectare (approx. 1 acre) where they want to test out a range of different ash species collected form arboreta across the UK.
If you think you have a suitable site of 2 to 2.5 hectares (5 to 6 acres), want to help, and are located in an area where Chalara ash die-back is already present, Forest Research would like to hear from you. Email Teresa at Teresa.Betterton@forestry.gsi.gov.uk and she will arrange for one of the research foresters to visit you and inspect the site. They will then decide if your site meets all of the requirements and take it from there.