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Improving Ash and Sycamore

Improving the genetic quality of hardwood trees for farmers, specifically ash (Fraxinus excelsior) and sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus).

Ash  plants derived from 30 diverse European regions are tested in Ireland in replicated trials and compared to Irish materials for establishment, quality and growth traits.

Methods to improve the initiation rate for micropropagation of a large number of selected ash trees are undertaken. Nursery scale production systems of plants from the selected trees are developed using micropropagation and ‘hedges’ of rejuvenated stock plants and by conventional cuttings, so the production technology can be transferred to commercial nursery practise. Trees from this system of production are tested in clonal field trials on multiple Teagasc sites.

In collaboration with COFORD, Coillte  and the British & Irish Hardwood Improvement Programme (BIHIP) we contribute to the genetic improvement of sycamore. Specifically, selected seeds stands are identified and a management plan for them activated to collect seeds to establish a Breeding Seedling Orchard and a seed production orchard using grafted plants of the superior trees, as the parents. In addition, the Irish collection of selected trees are augmented with selected material from the UK and possibly Denmark. Methods for large scale vegetative propagation of the selected trees of sycamore are developed using cuttings in a nursery mist system. This involves developing means to rejuvenate the mature trees and to maintain them in a juvenile physiological state. Efforts are made to induce early flowering in sycamore by using different species as rootstocks.

Where material of genetically improved species are available on the market (from other countries) e.g. wild cherry varieties, samples are tested and evaluated under Irish growing conditions in replicated trials and their performance assessed in relation to their suitability for farm forestry in Ireland.