New fungicide mode of action offers hope for Chalara control

Ash tree suffering from ash dieback - image:Forestry Commission
Ash tree suffering from ash dieback - image:Forestry Commission

A new fungicide treatment developed at the University of Sussex could be used to control Chalara fraxinea, the cause of ash dieback.

Fungal pathogens such as Chalara can resist fungicide treatments by expressing an enzyme called alternative oxidase (AOX), but novel compounds developed at the university by Professor Tony Moore knock AOX out.

They are therefore particularly effective when combined with a traditional fungicide that targets a different enzyme in the fungus, according to initial trials at The Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich, which is spearheading efforts against the spread of the disease.

The combination could be used to treat infected nursery stock or ash plantations, the University of Susex said in a statement.

But it cautioned: "It is more problematic to use fungicides in native woodland, where spraying is difficult and fungicides may affect beneficial fungi that help tree nutrition and healthy growth."

Moore has suggested that AOX fungicides could have wider use in commercial crops. The university is working with the Sussex Innovation Centre to help bring the compounds to market, and is seeking commercial partners to develop AOX fungicides for a range of applications.

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