Our work on elm
It has become apparent that key elm resources are held by various individuals and by different organisations. To secure and safeguard these resources for future reference, research and development, it is critical that these are properly documented to establish a national elm resource. In the case of plant material, important rare individuals should be replicated and planted on secondary secure sites.
a) Review, consolidate existing key data and plant material, and archive when appropriate
Datasets to be compiled can be broadly split into:
1) Information on mature elms trees in situ and contact persons
2) Collections and trials of species, varieties, selections propagated from mature DED tolerant treesplus seedlings including formal and informal sites. In reviewing the plant material held in collections and trials, material at risk of being lost, i.e. only present at one site, if considered of interest should be prioritised for propagation and planting at a second site.
b) Identify, conserve, characterise and test mature elms for DED tolerance
In addition to point ‘a’ above, there is existing additional knowledge in the wider ‘tree’ sectors, interested landowning and general public which needs harnessing to complement and extend the collection of British mature trees for further study. A collection of mature trees with timber potential should be created to form the basis of a future seed orchard.
c) Assess adaptiveness of elms including hybrids
The network of existing adaptive trial sites provides highly valuable information on the performance and suitability of elm varieties including hybrids and species to different soils and climates, and their ability to support biodiversity, notably the White-letter Hair Streak butterfly. It is essential that these trials are maintained and monitored. It is also essential that new, replicated trials are established which include new material and reference material.
d) Develop British elm varieties, particularly those with DED tolerance
Via the backcrossing of hybrid elm with outstanding mature examples of British elm, novel DED tolerant offspring have been identified. These need to be propagated and trialled to assess performance included DED tolerance under different site conditions. In addition, further progenies should be generated to increase the diversity of British elms varieties. The use of elm species such as European white elm (Ulmus laevis) which avoid DED should be considered as potential breeding with British as well as species which have resistance.
e) Promote the use of elm for planting and timber
Strategies to adopt the planting of elm which cater for different planting objectives needto be developed and promoted. The ‘buy in’ of the conservation bodies and administrative bodies as well as the amenity and forestry sector needs to be secured. Support of the nursery sector to invest in elm should be a priority. A key priority for support is to facilitate the acquisition of Plant Breeders Rights for the propagation of existing resistant clones that have proven to be adapted to UK growing conditions. This links to and enablesthe planting of resistance elms arising from items c & d. There is a substantial resource of small to medium dimension elm timber being under-utilised in Britain which is suitable for structural and decorative uses. This is in part because of the lack of awareness of potential markets and uses. Utilising such timber would not only help meet the sustainability and climate change agendas but also would reduce the availability of declining elm as a breeding resource for the elm bark beetles. Thus investment is required to promote and develop the elm timber chain.
f) Engage with the scientific community to develop and applyscientific ‘tools’ which would advance knowledge, provide robust data and increase confidence in the planting and use of elm
There is work required to build elm partnerships involving private, industry and research parties on a national and European level. This would promote the exchange of knowledge and aid the development of research projects and best practice.