Tree blight fight is to focus on Arger Fen

Arger Fen in Assington is to become the centre of a research experiment in the fightback against a deadly disease affecting ash trees, it has been revealed.

Suffolk Wildlife Trust has said it will be studying the disease at the Assington beauty spot, as well as Spouse’s Grove, which is part of Arger Fen, in a bid to look for a genetic resistance to the Chalara fungus – which causes the ash dieback.

News of the disease hit the headlines late last year when it was widely reported that ash trees all over the country were infected by the disease as a result of spores carried on the wind.

The Government subsequently banned imports of the trees as it was thought that imported nursery ash trees were responsible.

Scientists from the Forestry Commission are going to be using a fenced off area at the nature reserve to study the disease, while about 15 different strains of ash, amounting to thousands of ash saplings, will be planted this week to kick start the research.

The area will be monitored over the next five years.

Suffolk Wildlife Trust said it had responded to a request from the commission for research sites because of the fact that its Hulback’s Grove site at Arger Fen was one of the first places in the country to be identified as having the disease.

A spokesman said: “The Forestry Commission and Forest Research are using a two-hectare site to study genetic resistance to the Chalara dieback of ash disease. It is one of a number of trial plots scattered across East Anglia and eastern Kent.

“The site is one of the largest areas of naturally-regenerated woodland in East Anglia. Only a few years ago, it was an arable field, but today is a young woodland predominantly made up of ash. Many of these young trees are showing signs of the fungus, so the landscape will undoubtedly change again in the coming years.

“It is believed a small percentage of ash trees could be resistant to the disease, so this research is vital in securing the next generation of ash,” added the spokesman.