$1.4M Grant For Ash Trees Awarded To Ohio, Michigan

Forested hillside near Loudonville, Oh shows signs of Emerald Ash Borer infestation.(Photo: Tom Borgerding/WOSU News)
Forested hillside near Loudonville, Oh shows signs of Emerald Ash Borer infestation.(Photo: Tom Borgerding/WOSU News)

Ohio and Michigan researchers have received a $1.4 million federal grant to continue efforts to save ash trees from a beetle that has killed millions of the trees in parts of the United States and Canada.

Scientists at Ohio State University’s Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center near Wooster are part of the research team that recently received the grant to continue work on developing trees that can resist the devastating emerald ash borer . The three-year grant is from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

The emerald ash borer is killing trees in at least 15 states, including Ohio and Michigan, and in parts of Canada. The larvae bore through tree bark and destroy the soft tissue underneath, cutting off a tree’s ability to distribute water and food.

While insecticides can help protect trees, they are not always successful and aren’t a reasonable solution for trees in the wild, said project leader Dan Herms, an insect specialist at the OSU center.

The researchers have been working on developing resistant trees since 2003, the year after the infestation of the invasive insect was confirmed in the United States.
“We’ve made some pretty good progress over the years,” Herms said.

One of the approaches being pursued by the team is crossing Asian ash trees, which produce a chemical that helps them fight off the insect, with North American trees. The researchers are working to develop a hybrid that would include the Asian trees’ resistance with North American ash trees’ attractive appearance and good fall color.

The researchers also are studying the rare North American ash trees that have managed to avoid infestation in areas where the majority of the trees have died.

“We don’t know if they’re lucky or naturally resistant,” he said.

Herms expects that by the end of the three-year grant, researchers will have bred resistant trees and be at the point where they can evaluate the trees’ characteristics and determine which should be bred further.

Other researchers on the team include representatives from Ohio State’s Columbus campus, Wright State University, Michigan State University and the USDA Forest Service stations in Delaware, Ohio, and East Lansing, Mich.

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