Bartlett and Reading Scientists Seek Cure for Horse Chestnut Bleeding Canker

Dr. Glynn Percival of the Bartlett Tree Research Laboratory and Dr. Robert Jackson from the University of Reading have been awarded a PhD studentship to continue research trying to beat the bleeding canker disease which has hit half of the 500,000 horse chestnut trees in the British Isles.

Both Dr. Glynn Percival and Dr. Robert Jackson are leading experts on horse chestnut trees (Aesculus hippocastanum) and their pests and diseases.

The key point that seems to have been missed is that when trees are infected they either die or recover with no long term ill effects. So why is it that some trees respond positively after infection?

Dr. Percival’s research has focused on optimising tree health i.e. treat the patient not the disease. Appropriate irrigation, soil de-compaction, mulching, fertilisation and pest control can have a major impact on how trees respond to bleeding canker argues Dr. Percival. If growing conditions are optimal and any forms of stress are removed then recovery rates are far higher than non-treated trees. Further information on strategies that can be employed to suppress or ideally control bleeding canker can be found in the Bartlett Tree Experts' Online Resource Centre.

Earlier this year, Dr. Jackson, decoded the genetic blueprint of the bacterial disease Pseudomonas syringae pv. aesculi which is known to be the cause of the horse chestnut tree population decline. From October work with the PhD student will identify means of trying to kill the bacteria using a phage or virus. In addition further work will attempt to identify how the bacterium is spread such as transmission by an insect or through rainfall.

This type of research may also have important benefits to develop cures for other emerging tree diseases such as acute oak decline or canker of London Plane argue Dr. Percival and Dr. Jackson. These diseases can build-up rapidly with devastating effects. For example, the horse chestnut tree was introduced into the UK around 1600. Up until 6–8 years ago this tree had thrived in the UK for the past 400 years. With the problems of bleeding canker few local authorities plant them anymore and many nurseries have removed this tree from their production schedules.

Both scientists acknowledge, however, that even if they find a cure, it will be up to landowners to treat their own trees.

About Bartlett Tree Experts
The F.A. Bartlett Tree Expert Company was founded in 1907 by Francis A. Bartlett and is the world’s leading scientific tree and shrub care company. The organisation's current chairman, Robert A. Bartlett Jr., represents the third generation of Bartlett family management. Bartlett has offices throughout Great Britain, Canada, Ireland, and the U.S. Services include pruning, pest and disease management, soil analysis and management, cabling and bracing, tree lightning protection systems and tree felling. Its British head office is located in Ardingly, West Sussex.

For more information, contact:

Clare Harrison

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