Main research question
Ilex crenata (Japanese holly) is used as an alternative to boxwood which has lost popularity because of the boxwood moth. I. crenata is used as a hedge plant or in various pruning shapes. Differences in soil requirements between Buxus and Ilex crenata can cause problems in the garden. Unlike boxwood, I. crenata prefers a low soil pH. Soils of Flemish gardens often have a high pH due to the use of hard surfaces and calcareous pebbles. The soil fungus Berkeleyomyces basicola (formerly Thielaviopsis basicola, syn. Chalara elegans) can also cause problems with I. crenata, especially at high soil pH.
A research project initiated by the company Plant Select is studying the possibility of achieving a more tolerant I. crenata through breeding, both in terms of high soil pH and disease resistance. To this end, techniques are being developed that can support the breeding process and more insight will be gained into the interactions between the plant, soil fungus and soil pH.
The acquired knowledge and results will allow for targeted and strategic breeding and the development of a new I. crenata range that is better adapted for sustainable use in the garden.