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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 were 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 were undertaken. Nursery scale production systems of plants from the selected trees were developed using micropropagation and ‘hedges’ of rejuvenated stock plants and by conventional cuttings, so that the production technology can be transferred to commercial nursery practice. Trees from this system of production were tested in clonal field trials on multiple Teagasc sites.

In collaboration with COFORD, Coillte  and the British & Irish Hardwood Improvement Programme (BIHIP) we contributed to the genetic improvement of sycamore. Specifically, selected seeds stands were 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 were augmented with selected material from the UK and Denmark. Methods for large scale vegetative propagation of the selected trees of sycamore were developed using cuttings in a nursery mist system. This involved developing means to rejuvenate the mature trees and to maintain them in a juvenile physiological state. Efforts were made to induce early flowering in sycamore by using different species as rootstocks.