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Broadcasting rights for this audiovisual material financed with the contribution of the LIFE financial instrument of the European Union.
“They have colonized towns and cities, countries and continents. Long before the arrival of man, they were already here …”
This is how this documentary begins, revealing the elms, their presence in Asia, America and Europe for millions of years and their close connection with the history of humanity.
This documentary was made in the year 2011, prior to the start of the LIFE + ELM project in 2014. It explains the research that has been carried out over the years to fight against Dutch elm disease, such as the application of phytosanitary products, the development of vaccines or the use of transgenic elms, by the hand of some of the leading researchers from the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Spain, Canada or Italy. In spite of the undoubted interest of these studies and the great advance that they supposed in the knowledge of the elms and Dutch elm disease, these techniques have not been able to stop the advance of the disease. The great virulence of the pathogen together with the difficulty of large-scale application of these control methods, their limited efficacy, or their harmful effects on the environment, have made the control of Dutch elm disease extremely difficult.
The traditional genetic breeding has turned out as the best alternative for the fight against the disease. This breeding has been carried out in Europe and North America since the beginning of the 20th century, generally through the artificial hybridization of native elms with different species of Asian elms tolerant to the disease. Thanks to these breeding programs, different hybrid clones resistant to Dutch elm disease have been obtained and marketed. In the last decade, the Spanish Elm Breeding Program has selected seven clones of the native species Ulmus minor tolerant to Dutch elm disease. These clones were included in 2014 in the National Register of Base Materials for the production of forest reproductive materials. Thanks to this inclusion, these clones can be used for forestry purposes in Spain, unlike hybrids with Asian species, whose forest use is discouraged in order to preserve the gene pool of native elms. The selection and register of these clones opened the door to recovering the use of this species in forestry activities and to this end the LIFE + ELM project was launched, which includes actions to plant these clones in the Tagus river basin, in addition to the plantation of another species, Ulmus laevis, whose populations in Spain are very small and fragmented, in spite of their autochthonous character.