Securing the future of important trees with new ways to grow from cuttings

Tuesday, 29 November 2022

Researchers are developing new techniques to grow trees from cuttings to secure the future of important species of trees and combat destructive diseases.

Scientists from the University of Nottingham have been awarded funding by the Forestry Commission to investigate new methods for delivering the hormone Auxin to roots to improve the success of propagation from cuttings.

The project is part of the Forestry Commission’s Tree Production Innovation Fund (TPIF) launched to support innovative projects that will enhance the quantity, quality and diversity of tree planting stock available for planting in England.

Assistant Professor Amanda Rasmussen from the University of Nottingham is leading the research, she explains: “Creating new plants from cuttings is widely used for garden and commercial plant production because it’s quicker than seed-raising and often results in more stress resistant plants. This makes cutting propagation an excellent way to produce high numbers of environmentally resilient trees.

“However, some trees are challenging to propagate by cuttings. Oak and Ash – important UK trees for wood products – are proving challenging. Despite many years of work on Oak, grafting is still used to obtain better trees for breeding purposes. This is problematic, with some genotypes never taking successfully. For Ash cutting success is even lower than Oak but if we are to rescue Ash as a forestry species, multiplication of dieback-resistant lines is crucial.”

Ash dieback is a lethal disease caused by the fungus Hymenoscyphus fraxineus. It represents a substantial threat both to the UK’s forests and to amenity trees growing in parks and gardens. It was detected in the UK for the first time in 2012 and is now very widespread.

Working in collaboration with lead researchers on Ash dieback resistance trials (NIAB-EMR) the University of Nottingham led team will use pharmaceutical controlled release technology to develop new timed release hormone capsules. They will also trial a new fungi treatment to help seedling establishment through better nutrient foraging and improved stress signalling.

Dr Rasmussen adds: “Currently pharmaceutical drug delivery technologies are not used for tree propagation. However, the technology exists for medical purposes and could be applied to cuttings as an alternative to traditional hormone dips. This research will build on a pilot study where we started to adapt this for use in plants. This project will directly benefit Oak and Ash propagation industries through optimised techniques and secure the future of these beautiful British trees.”

The cuttings will be cultivated in a new polytunnel at the University of Nottingham’s Sutton Bonington campus and advanced computing technology will be used to create 3D images of the roots to show how the treatments impact cellular root development stages and fungal interactions.

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More information is available from Dr Amanda Rasmussen on

Jane Icke - Media Relations Manager Science
Phone: 0115 7486462

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