Breakthrough in Ash Dieback research could provide answers to UK's biggest tree disease

  • ITV News Meridian reporter Andy Dickenson looks at what the breakthrough means for the UK's 175 million ash trees.

A breakthrough in DNA research may provide some answers to the most significant tree disease to hit the UK in 60 years, ITV News can exclusively reveal.

Tens of thousands of trees have already had to be cut down due to the Ash Dieback disease with shocking predictions that up to 160 million could be lost across the country.

But in a laboratory at the Millenium Seedbank in Sussex a breakthrough could provide new hope.

The deadly fungus is set to kill up to 75% of ash trees in the UK.

Ash is fundamental to a healthy ecosystem, providing multiple benefits to nature and society.

Trees suffering from Ash dieback have been cut down

Ten years since the disease was first discovered in the UK, Wakehurst gardens near Haywards Heath have been forced to close a part of their site to embark on a major felling operation.

Ed Ikin, Director of Wakehurst said: “Recent extreme weather such as drought stress hasonly accelerated ash dieback’s spread.

"The closure of our nature reserve marks a pivotal moment in our history, as we fight this deadly disease, and serves as a reminder of how the work we undertake at Kew is critical to combat the twin threats of biodiversity loss and climate change.”

Ash trees can adapt to different soils and climatic conditions, which has proven useful for major tree planting schemes, and are also home to a range of wildlife, meaning the team have a limited window in which to work, outside of key nesting periods.

Ash dieback also presents a huge financial cost to British society, from the practical management of the disease to the loss of environmental services, it’s estimated to cost £15 billion.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...