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Published on January 3, 2008

Author: Pumbaa

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Slide1:  Restoring the King of the Forest Slide2:  The American chestnut was once one of the most important trees in the Eastern forest. In the heart of its range a count of trees would have turned up one chestnut for every four oaks, birches, maples and other hardwoods. Many of the dry ridge tops of the central Appalachians were so thoroughly crowded with chestnut that, in early summer, when their canopies were filled with creamy-white flowers, the mountains appeared snow-capped. Slide3:  And the trees could be giants. In virgin forests throughout their range, mature chestnuts averaged up to five feet in diameter and up to one hundred feet tall. Many specimens of eight to ten feet in diameter were recorded, and there were rumors of trees bigger still. Slide4:  American chestnut was an important wildlife food source, forming a staple for such animals as turkey, ruffed grouse, bear, and many other wild and domestic animals. Slide5:  The range of greatest dominance in the United States stretched from Maine to Georgia. The tree is now native to southern Ontario, and some researchers believe that until the late 1800s it may also have been present in northern Florida. Slide6:  The tree was one of the best for timber. It grew straight and often branch-free for 50 feet. Loggers tell of loading entire railroad cars with boards cut from just one tree. Straight-grained, lighter in weight than oak and more easily worked, chestnut was as rot resistant as redwood. Photo courtesy of United States Forest Service- Asheville. Courtesy of The Great Smokey Mountains National Park Library Slide7:  Chestnut was an extremely important commodity for early settlers of the Appalachians. The nuts were used for food, mast (wildlife food), and as a cash crop. The wood was used for virtually everything - telegraph poles, railroad ties, shingles, paneling, fine furniture, musical instruments, even pulp and plywood. In the South, the bark and wood were also used for tannin extraction. Slide8:  Then the chestnut blight struck Slide9:  First discovered in 1904 in New York City, the blight - an Asian fungus to which our native chestnuts had very little resistance - spread quickly. In its wake it left only dead and dying stems. By 1950, except for the shrubby root sprouts the species continually produces (and which also quickly become infected), the keystone species on some nine million acres of eastern forests had disappeared. The blight is caused by a fungus, Cryphonectria parasitica, introduced from Asia.:  The blight is caused by a fungus, Cryphonectria parasitica, introduced from Asia. Blight enters the tree though the cracks typical of chestnut bark and through wounds. It forms a canker and quickly girdles the tree. Slide11:  THE AMERICAN CHESTNUT FOUNDATION TACF has been working for 23 years to breed a blight-resistant American chestnut tree. The goal: to restore the American chestnut to the eastern forests through a scientific program of breeding and cooperative research. Recent developments in genetics and plant pathology promise new hope that this magnificent tree will again become part of our natural heritage. Slide12:  To make this promise a reality, a group of prominent scientists established The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) in 1983 as a non-profit organization. The mission is simple; to restore the American chestnut as an integral part of the eastern forest ecosystem. Original organizers and supporters included Nobel Prize-winning plant breeder Dr. Norman Borlaug, Dr. Peter Raven, Director of the Missouri Botanical Garden, independent chestnut researcher Philip Rutter, and the late Dr. Charles Burnham, the eminent Minnesota corn geneticist. Dr. Charles Burnham Slide13:  It is expected that, in order to avoid inbreeding, the entire breeding project will take 30-50 years. By 2006, we expect to have the first line of highly blight-resistant trees which are fifteen-sixteenths American chestnut and one-sixteenth Chinese chestnut, on average. The 30-50 years will be needed because there are a minimum of six generations through which we need to breed, and each generation of breeding takes a minimum of five years and in some cases eight-ten years. We then need to do that within as many different Chinese chestnut sources as possible—and that will take a lot of time! Slide14:  The Foundation's primary approach is to use the backcross method of plant breeding to transfer the blight resistance of the Chinese chestnut to the American chestnut. Backcrossing is the standard method for transferring a single trait into an otherwise acceptable plant. For chestnut, it entails crossing the Chinese and American trees to obtain a hybrid which is one-half American and one-half Chinese. Slide15:  TACF’s Backcross Breeding Program Each generation select for: Blight resistance American characteristics Slide16:  The hybrid is backcrossed to another American chestnut to obtain a tree which is three-fourths American and one-fourth Chinese, on average. Each further cycle of backcrossing reduces the Chinese fraction by a factor of one-half. The idea is to dilute out all of the Chinese characteristics except for blight resistance; we select for blight resistance at each backcross step. A hybrid American chestnut in New York’s Central Park Our goal is to produce trees that will be indistinguishable by experts from pure American chestnut trees. Slide17:  Meadowview Research Farms In 1989 TACF established a research farm in Meadowview, Virginia. A second farm was donated in 1995 with initial planting in 1996, and a third farm purchased and planting begun in 2002. Today at Meadowview, more than 26,000 trees are in the ground at various stages of breeding, maintained by six full-time staff; two scientists, a research technician, a field technician, a mechanic, and a farmer. Slide18:  State Chapter Network ~ The Key to Success Alabama Carolinas Connecticut Georgia Indiana Kentucky Maine Maryland Massachusetts New York Ohio Pennsylvania Tennessee Virginia Vermont (Provisional) TACF’s chapter network extends throughout the natural range of the American chestnut. Slide19:  Chapter volunteers find and pollinate mother trees, and establish and care for chestnut orchards. Assistance from utility companies often provides bucket trucks for pollinations. A win-win situation: land reclamation projects:  A win-win situation: land reclamation projects Its rapid growth, high quality wood, and exceptional wildlife properties makes the American chestnut the most viable choice for reforestation projects. A former mine in Kentucky slated for reforestation Courtesy of Mike French A reclaimed hillside orchard Slide21:  The American Chestnut Foundation depends primarily upon its members to support research to develop a blight-resistant American chestnut tree. Currently, over 5,800 members are helping to bring this important tree back from the brink of extinction. In 2004, Charity Navigator, a non-profit watchdog group in Mahwah, N.J., rated The American Chestnut Foundation four stars, its highest evaluation of not-for-profit corporations accepting financial contributions from supporters. Charity Navigator determined that TACF spends 79.1% of its revenues on program expenses. Slide22:  The USDA Forest Service The National Forest Foundation The National Science Foundation The PEW Charitable Trusts The Norcross Foundation The Department of Natural Resources The National Wild Turkey Federation US Department of Agriculture Service Chief Dale Bosworth (left) signs a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Marshal Case. The MOU establishes a partnership with TACF to utilize National Forest lands and resources in its breeding program. Courtesy of the USDA FS PARTNERSHIPS In addition to that of our members, TACF has earned the support of and partnerships with groups such as: Slide23:  A Bipartisan Commitment The American Chestnut Foundation is proud to count former President Jimmy Carter among its long-time members. In September 2005, President Carter met with representatives of TACF at the dedication of a chestnut exhibit at the Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia. Slide24:  President George W. Bush, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, and TACF's Marshal Case plant a tree on the North Lawn of the White House in celebration of Arbor Day 2005 Become a Member! With you help, we will return the American chestnut to its native woodlands. :  Become a Member! With you help, we will return the American chestnut to its native woodlands. As a member of The American Chestnut Foundation you will receive... The Journal of The American Chestnut Foundation, our semi-annual scientific and cultural magazine. The Bark, our quarterly newsletter Membership in one of our state chapters Access to expert advice on growing and caring for American chestnut trees. Opportunities to participate in local breeding and research activities. The opportunity to purchase American chestnut seed and seedling kits. Please visit www.acf.org or call the Bennington office for a membership application. Slide26:  469 Main Street, Suite 1 P.O. Box 4044 Bennington, VT 05201 802-447-0110 fax 802-442-6855 chestnut@acf.org www.acf.org Administrative Offices Bennington, Vermont Meadowview Research Farms Meadowview, Virginia Southern Appalachian Regional Office Ashville, North Carolina Northern Appalachian Regional Office Penn State University New England Regional Office Yale University

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