Main research question
Beech Leaf Disease (BLD) is a new disease that is spreading rapidly in forests and landscapes in the US and Canada. There, the disease has been detected mainly on American beech (Fagus grandifolia), but also on European beech (F. sylvatica). The latter is the dominant beech species in Belgium. BLD has been associated with a leaf nematode: Litylenchus crenatae subsp. mccannii. It is not known whether beech leaf disease or Litylenchus species occur in Belgium. The main goals of this project are to raise public awareness of this beech leaf disease, to verify the presence of BLD in our regions and to investigate the risks for this disease in our regions.
The project partners will survey beech (Fagus spp.) for symptoms of BLD in forests, parks and nurseries in Flanders and Wallonia. We want to investigate the biology of the nematode associated with BLD (Litylenchus sp.) under Belgian climatic conditions and investigate the microbial community of (a)symptomatic leaves and buds using the next generation sequencing (NGS) technology. We will also raise public awareness in several ways and investigate the risk of its entrance and spread in Belgium.
Beech is a highly valuable tree, both ecologically and economically. Early detection of BLD can prevent this disease from establishing and spreading in forests and parks. A better understanding of its biology can lead to appropriate management tools. The results obtained from this project will be shared with official authorities and managers of forests, public green spaces and botanical gardens directly and through publications. This will contribute to pest risk assessments and the development of appropriate measures for protecting beech trees in the whole of Europe. The project is part of a wider framework with the same goals: the Euphresco project FAGUSTAT.