Now, Widrlechner is racing the clock to collect seeds from different ash species including green, white, blue, and black ash, and many variations within each species.
He thinks he may be about 10 percent there.
"When I first found out about the emerald ash borer, we had about 60 different types of ash tree germplasm (seed) in our system," said Widrlechner. "Now we have about 220. Ultimately, I think we'll need at least a couple thousand to represent the diversity that's out there. In the next two years, we should really start to make a dent in it."
The situation has mobilized members of the ARS, the United States Forest Service, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Bureau of Land Management and many state agencies and public gardens all to find ways to contain the pest, save the ash trees and conserve their seeds.
In January, Widrlechner became the national coordinator for all the agencies involved with seed collection and conservation.
"We've got a lot of people working on it," he said. "I just got back from southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois looking for good, natural populations that have seed. We find them, mark them with the GPS coordinates and then go back when the seeds are ready in September and October."
One of the problems this year is that many of the trees are not producing very many or very good quality seeds.
Widrlechner says this happens in certain years and is not very well understood.
Widrlechner's recent trips to New England and throughout the Midwest are designed to collect seeds ahead of the growing infestation.
"The strategy that we're following right now is focused on the area just outside the range of the insect or the area where the insect
|Contact: Mark Widrlechner|
Iowa State University