Genome sequences of up to 30 samples of the fungus from the UK and Europe will rapidly help to acquire in-depth genetic information to shed light on the infection process. These data will reveal clues to the origins of the disease and provide genetic 'markers' to allow the spread of different strains of the fungus to be followed. Genetic data will also provide direct insights into the nature of the fungus.
The consortium will obtain information about how the disease spreads by studying infection in climate-controlled growth facilities, tracking the fungus as it colonises the plant. This vital information will help to develop effective disease control strategies.
The project will also uncover how some ash trees can partially resist attack. About 2% of Danish trees appear to ward off the disease but little information on the genetic basis for this is known. Genetic data from these trees will be compared to susceptible trees to find variations in their genetic codes. By identifying these differences, genetic makers can be developed to help breeders produce more resistant trees.
The Nornex consortium, named for the three Norns who tend the ash tree of life 'Yggdrasil' in Norse mythology, will upload its data to an open-access website. This crowd-sourced, data-sharing approach will share the genetic data to exploit the expertise of plant and fungal research communities internationally.
Charting the disease
In addition to the consortium, Professor Christopher Gilligan with Dr Nik Cunniffe at the University of Cambridge and Dr Frank van den Bosch Rothamsted Research, have been awarded funding to develop and test mathematical, computer-based models to
|Contact: Rob Dawson|
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council