iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry


Genetic variation of Fraxinus excelsior half-sib families in response to ash dieback disease following simulated spring frost and summer drought treatments

Alfas Pliura (1-2)   , Vaidotas Lygis (3), Diana Marčiulyniene (1), Vytautas Suchockas (1-2), Remigijus Bakys (1)

iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry, Volume 9, Issue 1, Pages 12-22 (2015)
doi: https://doi.org/10.3832/ifor1514-008
Published: Sep 08, 2015 - Copyright © 2015 SISEF

Research Articles

Ten juvenile Fraxinus excelsior half-sib families from two Lithuanian populations have been tested in the controlled environment for their response to ash dieback disease caused by Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, detecting changes of genetic variation and heritability, as well as estimating genotype by environment (G×E) interaction and phenotypic plasticity following artificial spring frost and summer drought treatments. In 2014, a batch of 200 four-year-old ash seedlings was used for each treatment and control (no treatment). Health condition, bud flushing phenology and height were assessed for each seedling, and disease incidence and survival ratios were assessed for each family both before (at the beginning of the vegetation season) and after the treatments (at the end of the vegetation season). Disease incidence ratio increased from 0.77-0.80 up to 0.90-0.95. Tree mortality rates during one vegetation season were significantly lower in the frost treatment (21%) than in the drought treatment (25%) or control (31%). None of the tested F. excelsior families were completely resistant to ash dieback, although significant among-family differences in disease incidence and damage rates suggest an additive mode of gene action and thus a quantitative resistance to the disease. Neither disease incidence rates, nor tree health condition scores differed significantly among the applied treatments (including control) indicating in general a negligible effect of the simulated adverse conditions on health status of the ash seedlings. However, G×E interaction was found to be significant (at P > 0.05) for disease incidence, length of necrotic shoots and tree survival, implying that susceptibility of ash families to the dieback disease unequally depends on environmental conditions, and indicating a presence of genetic variation in plasticity and reaction norms of the tested families across environments (treatments). Substantially increased coefficients of additive genetic variation and heritability in health condition following both frost and drought treatments and compared to control showed that simulated stress conditions may noticeably contribute to expression of differences among the tested F. excelsior families in their resistance traits, thus enabling a better evaluation of performance of different families, an effective family selection for resistance, and achievement of a marked genetic gain.


Common Ash, Dieback, Disease Resistance, Genetic Variation, Heritability, Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus (Chalara fraxinea), Phenotypic Plasticity

Authors’ address

Alfas Pliura
Diana Marčiulyniene
Vytautas Suchockas
Remigijus Bakys
Institute of Forestry, Lithuanian Research Centre for Agriculture and Forestry, Liepu str. 1, LT-53101 Girionys, Kaunas reg. (Lithuania)
Alfas Pliura
Vytautas Suchockas
Aleksandras Stulginskis University, Studentu str. 13, LT-53361 Akademija - Kaunas (Lithuania)
Vaidotas Lygis
Institute of Botany of Nature Research Centre, Zaliuju Ežeru str. 49, LT-08406 Vilnius (Lithuania)

Corresponding author

Alfas Pliura


Pliura A, Lygis V, Marčiulyniene D, Suchockas V, Bakys R (2015). Genetic variation of Fraxinus excelsior half-sib families in response to ash dieback disease following simulated spring frost and summer drought treatments. iForest 9: 12-22. - doi: 10.3832/ifor1514-008

Academic Editor

Alberto Santini

Paper history

Received: Nov 26, 2014
Accepted: Jul 24, 2015

First online: Sep 08, 2015
Publication Date: Feb 21, 2016
Publication Time: 1.53 months

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