ASH trees which have proved resilient against ash dieback are to be planted in the UK’s first ‘ash tree archive’.

The move was announced as the UK government launched its new Ash Research Strategy.

The strategy brings together evidence on threats to ash from ash dieback and the emerald ash borer beetle, and identifies future research needs.

DEFRA has jointly funded a number of successful research projects that have identified trees which appear to be showing signs of tolerance to ash dieback. These trees will be used to develop a breeding programme of disease-resistant ash trees.

Nicola Spence, DEFRA’s chief plant health officer, said: “Since ash dieback was identified in 2012, we have invested more than £6 m in ash dieback research and £4.5 m to strengthen border security. We currently have some of the strongest import controls in Europe.

“But we want to go even further to protect our ash trees, which is why we have developed the ash research strategy, a new document which will help us determine how to ensure ash trees remain in our landscape for future generations to enjoy.

Scions collected from the trees that appear to be showing signs of tolerance to ash dieback have been grafted onto healthy rootstock and are currently growing in nurseries with the anticipation of being planted in Hampshire in 2020.

The Royal Forestry Society welcomed the launch of the strategy. John Gibbs, of the RFS, said: “By identifying priority research themes and activities within these themes, the strategy provides a good basis of support for DEFRA’s ash policy. That part of the project will provide hard data on the impact of the disease in different parts of the country and on ash growing on different types of site, and will be invaluable for bodies with an interest in land use like the RFS, the CLA or the National Trust. So also will data on year-to-year variation in disease severity, as for example may be caused by differences in the summer weather: the time when spore release and infection takes place.”

The strategy can be read in full here: