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Elm Disease Resistance Research Gets a Boost

Photo of American elm cuttings growing in the greenhouse. Kathleen Knight, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.American elm cuttings growing in the greenhouse. Kathleen Knight, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.Snapshot : Great news for disease-tolerant American elm! A grant from The Manton Foundation has provided the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station with an opportunity to accelerate American elm research in collaboration with Nature Conservancy.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Knight, KathleenPinchot, Leila
Flower, Charles E. Minocha, Rakesh
Woeste, KeithSchaberg, Paul
Slavicek, Jim 
Research Location : Delaware Forestry Lab
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2016
Highlight ID : 995


Forest Service scientists at the agency’s Northern Research Station identify and breed American elms with tolerance to Dutch elm disease (DED) through a multi-step program that involves: (1) Propagating old American elms that have survived the Dutch elm disease epidemic through grafting and cuttings; (2) Crossing these survivor elm selections with known DED-tolerant American elm selections; (3) Growing the elms generated from the cuttings and crosses; and (4) Inoculating the elms with the DED pathogen to test them for resistance to DED. They are also examining elm metabolites to understand how the trees survive the disease. In addition, the researchers have started studying elm yellows, another important elm disease, with the goal of incorporating elm yellows resistance into the breeding program. During summer 2016, they propagated 13 new survivor elm selections provided by partners at Nature Conservancy and generated progeny from crosses with these elms for future testing; inoculated 37 elm selections in potted tree and plantation tree assays; and sampled foliage of inoculated trees for metabolites. Preliminary results show some inoculated elm selections performing very well compared to DED-susceptible controls, which are showing severe symptoms of decline. The elms that can tolerate DED can be used for urban plantings and for restoration of forests.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Nature Conservancy

Program Areas