Giorgio Tesi Group and CNR together to safeguard the Elm tree.

06/08/2012

A new agreement between the National Advisory of Research (CNR) and the Giorgio Tesi Group for the experimentation of new varieties of plants: after having experimented with success the cultivation of 4 new varieties of Cypress trees resistant to cortical cancer, a lethal disease and pandemic caused by the pathogen fungus (deriving from “Seiridium Carindale”), the new collaboration is directed at the cultivation of a new species of Elm tree resistant to “Grafiosi,” one of the diseases that caused the disappearance of a large part of the individual adult Elms and that contributed in modifying the European and North American landscapes.

The Elms are plants of prime size and exceptional beauty. Over the course of history they have been utilized by man for a diverse variety of reasons: food, medicine, forage for livestock, wood for the construction of ships, furniture, equipment, arms, wood to burn and finally, since Roman times (Columella, around 50 d.C.), as guardians of life.

The freshness of its shade has been recognized since the times of the Romans, in so much that they considered it sacred to Morpheus, the God of sleep and dreams. This plant was also prized by Napoleon who wanted Elms planted along the new roads so that they would provide shade for the troops would have marched there. Indeed, the Elm possesses several peculiar characteristics that make it preferred as a plant suited for the urban environment. The planes of the Padana, until half a century ago, constituted a tree lined countryside in which the Elm was the plant species most represented.

We are not accustomed to considering the Elm among the species utilized in an urban environment because at the beginning of the 20th century two terrible pandemics occurred, caused by the introduction in to Europe of two fungus organisms, Ophiostoma ulmi in the 1930’s and O. novo-ulmi in the 1970’s, both agents caused “Grafiosi” and contributed to the decline in the use of the Elm tree.

From mid-1970 in Florence, through the Institute for the Protection of Plants of the CNR (IPP-CNR), under the guidance of Professor Lorenzo Mittempergher, a new job of genetic improvement for the resistance to “Grafiosi” began. Until today this job has brought a selection and patenting of 5 resistant clones: in 1997 “Plinio,” “S. Zanobi”; in 2006 “Arno,” “Fiorente,” and finally, in 2011 “Morfeo,” that, unlike all other Elms resistant present on the market, it owes its resistance to the contribution of the U. chenmoui, a Chinese species that is rather sporadic, but very interesting from an aesthetic point of view.  


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