Ash trees showing tolerance to the highly destructive tree disease ash dieback will be planted in the UK’s first ‘ash tree archive’.

This strategy consolidates all the evidence on ash trees and their threats to identify future research needs to protect the species and restore it to our landscape.

These threats include the tree disease ash dieback, which has the potential to cause significant damage to the UK’s ash trees population, and the pest emerald ash borer.

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 are the next important step in developing a future breeding programme of disease-resistant ash trees.

Lord Gardiner, Biosecurity Minister, said: "Defra is already committed to funding several key research activities. Just one innovative example is the ongoing screening by Forest Research and Future Trees Trust for ash trees tolerant to ash dieback. In early 2020 the Trust will be planting an archive of tolerant trees which will be a key resource for a future breeding programme."

Nicola Spence, Defra Chief Plant Health Officer, said: "Since ash dieback was identified in 2012, we have invested more than £6m in ash dieback research and £4.5m 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 ash strategy presents six updated ash policy objectives, set against the THRS resilience circle segments:

  • Continuous review of pests and diseases which pose a threat to ash, in particular ADB and EAB
  • Mitigate the risk of further pest and disease outbreaks on ash
  • Ensure preparedness and an optimal response to an EAB incursion
  • Reduce the impact of ADB on ash-associated biodiversity and public health and safety
  • Restore ecosystem services, by repopulating the treescape with alternative species to ash
  • Assist the long-term survival of native ash in the landscape