Jerry Douglas at the BLT.

The Society kicked off it’s lecture series by a talk by Jerry Douglas titled The role of Biotechnology in Horticulture and Forestry on the 23rd of Nov. Dr. Douglas is the head of Research at Teagasc Research Centre, Kinsealy, with an interest in Ash and Sycamore. He is also heavily involved in the conservation of veteran trees in Ireland.

Survival of the original trees can be perpetuated and ensured by vegetative propagation through grafting them onto rootstocks or by rooting cuttings. The trees of interest are ash, sycamore, oak and elm. They can then be conserved at the original locations as younger copy-specimens. In addition, they can also be conserved in ex situ collections in public parks arboreta and private estates which would be willing to “host” a collection of veterans. Source

He went through some of the major developments in Biotechnology in recent years, touching on micropropagation and hybridisation as tools used by scientists and horticulturalists alike. Dr. Douglas gave an example of how his lab was called in to investigate dieback in ornamental Buddleia which was causing stunted growth in the plant. They later isolated 10 different bacteria living in the xylem vessels of the plant. When the plant was sterilised and grown in vitro without these bacteria, there was no  dieback,  which was then propagated as ornamentals.

The talk was definitely an engaging one with the interest gauged by the number questions asked in the end. These went from environmental  impact evaluation on newly propagated plants to the potential (if any) risks of genetically modified plants.
Overall it was a great talk, and would like to thank Jerry for taking the time for this.