Ash dieback is an invasive fungus that threatens to decimate stocks of European ash.
The first symptoms of ash dieback in European ash trees were seen in Poland in 1992, although it took until 2006 to identify a fungus as the cause. By 2012, 23 countries in Europe had reported cases of the disease, which causes leaf loss and usually kills the tree.
Some scientists believe the new strain is native to Japan, where they say it causes no harm to local trees. It is also related to a native species that has been known in Europe since 1851 and grows on ash tree leaves without harming the tree.
With no effective strategies for managing ash dieback, or controlling its spread, researchers are working to breed disease-resistant varieties of ash in an effort to restore tree stocks.
Close up symptoms of the ash dieback. © Fera-Crown
At the same time, they are developing new tools to rapidly detect the pathogen. At the beginning of 2013, the EU supported ‘Q-Detect’ multi-disciplinary research network reported some interesting advances in this field. Q-Detect has developed a range of new tools to help plant health inspectors protect Europe’s agriculture and forestry sectors from invasive pests and pathogens.
By adapting a military technology for detecting battlefield biological agents, researchers in the network produced a quick identification tool to diagnose the fungus at the origin of the illness in less than 30 minutes. Previously, the detection procedure could have taken several days.
Bill Gates and the European Commission have launched a €100 million investment fund designed to bring radical clean energy technologies more quickly to market in order to promote energy efficiency and cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Hydrogen can be used to power cars, supply electricity and heat homes, all with zero carbon emissions. The snag is that the vast majority of hydrogen itself is derived from fossil fuels – a fact that scientists are now hoping to change. They plan to clean up production to kickstart a dedicated economy – something that has already found small-scale success in Scotland’s Orkney Islands.
We should breed new varieties of crops based on their root architecture rather than just focusing on the top half of the plant, according to scientists looking at how to cultivate plants that use water more efficiently and better withstand drought conditions.
Businesses and consumers need to stop thinking of products as things to own and move towards a culture of sharing and repairing if we are to fulfil the ambition of creating a circular economy, according to Felipe Maya, project and innovation manager at sustainable engineering firm Exergy, headquartered in Coventry, UK.
Europe's leadership 'more important than ever', says Gates.
The goal is to remove reliance on fossil fuels.
A circular economy needs new business models and reusable products, says Felipe Maya.