Ireland: New hope in fight against killer fungus hitting hurley ash trees - - PressFrom - United Kingdom
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Ireland New hope in fight against killer fungus hitting hurley ash trees

09:55  10 november  2019
09:55  10 november  2019 Source:   independent.ie

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a person holding a football ball on a field: SPORT: About 750,000 hurleys are made each year in Ireland. Picture: Sportsfile © SPORTSFILE SPORT: About 750,000 hurleys are made each year in Ireland. Picture: Sportsfile

The disease which has strangled the life out of millions of Ireland's ash trees could be tackled by the discovery of a strain of the hurley-making tree which can fight ash dieback.

Scientists have discovered that a tiny proportion of the native tree in Ireland are largely unaffected by the killer fungus which has wiped out millions of the tree used to make the nation's hurleys.

It is estimated that around 750,000 hurleys are produced every year in Ireland with about half made from Irish ash.

In a new special episode of RTE's Ear to the Ground on the fungal epidemic which has ravaged Irish ash stocks one female farmer reveals how she could be out of pocket by nearly €600,000.

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The new discovery will not save the thousands of hectares of infected ash trees but it does mean there is a future for the tree in Ireland.

"There is hope for ash," said Teagasc scientist, Miguel Nemesio-Gorriz, who is working on a Europe-wide project on resistant strains in the Ashtown Research Centre in Dublin.

"We haven't found trees that don't get infected but we have found trees that are highly tolerant, meaning they get infected but it doesn't really progress.

"We know once you find a tolerant tree and you make copies of it they will also be tolerant and a high proportion of seeds from a tolerant tree will have the tolerance which means it is actually genetic''.

Albert Nevin, chairman of the Irish Guild of Ash Hurley Makers, who is based in Co Offaly, said there is no scarcity at the moment among the 400 hurley makers in Ireland.

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A young ash tree with symptoms of ash dieback near Canterbury, Kent (Photo: PA). The uphill battle against ash dieback disease has been given a huge While developing new tolerant strains will not help the existing ash population it would mean new trees could be planted and survive to replace the

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He said: "I can't see it being a major problem but down the line it will get scarcer."

Ear to the Ground revealed they first reported the first outbreak of ash dieback in Co Leitrim in November 2012, and that more than 1,600 hectares of ash has been removed at a cost of €4.4m.

Tipperary farmer Mary McCormack, who was widowed at the age of 39 with four young children, decided to plant her 160-acre farm in forestry which included ash trees in 1998.

While a healthy ash tree, which can be used to make hurleys, is worth up to €220, a diseased tree would make only about €60 for firewood.

The programme reveals she could stand to lose up to €600,000 on the 40 acres of ash planted on her farm after the fungal disease was discovered on a large number of her ash trees.

"There is very little that is going to be salvaged. I can't tell you the effect it has had on me," she said.

'Ear to the Ground' will be shown on RTE One this Thursday, November 14, at 8.30pm.

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