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In the search for new perspectives against the ash dieback pathogen H. fraxineus


In this research project we aim (1) to characterize epidemic (i.e. in Switzerland) and post-epidemic (i.e. in Lithuania) populations of Hymenoscyphus fraxineus in respect to virulence and genetic diversity, (2) to screen Hymenoscyphus fraxineus for mycoviruses using a metagenomic approach, (3) to characterize the mycoviruses and determine virus incidence in epidemic and post-epidemic populations, and (4) to evaluate the potential of the mycoviruses for biological control of ash dieback.


Ash dieback in Europe

The ascomycete fungus Hymenoscyphus fraxineus (synonym: H. pseudoalbidus, basionym: Chalara fraxinea) is a new invasive pathogen causing severe dieback of Fraxinus spp in Europe. The disease was first recorded in the 1990s in eastern Poland and Lithuania and has since then spread across the continent. In Switzerland, the disease was first reported in 2008 in the northwest, from where it expanded rapidly to other regions.


Mycoviruses as potenial for biocontrol

Options for management of this novel forest disease are currently very limited and mainly directed to search for resistance in the host tree. Mycoviruses are commonly found in all major groups of plant pathogenic fungi. Some of these viruses were found to cause debilitating disease or reduce virulence in its fungal host and thereby have the potential to be used as biological control agents (e.g. Hypoviruses in the chestnut blight fungus, Cryphonectria parasitica).