What’s up with the blight-resistant chestnut trees?
The blight-induced death of billions of American chestnut trees in Appalachian forests in the early 1900’s left many wondering if this species was headed for extinction. In response to this huge loss, the US Department of Agriculture and some dedicated private citizens began a massive effort in 1930 to interbreed blight-resistant Asian chestnut trees with wild-type American chestnut trees in the hopes of creating a hybrid tree that not only was resistant to the fungus that causes chestnut blight but also resembled the straight and tall growth typical of American chestnut trees.
Based on information gained from these initial breeding trials, a group of plant geneticists gathered in 1983 to form The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF). This non-profit organization has spent the past 35 years interbreeding and testing thousands of hybrid trees for blight resistance. Beginning in 2010, chestnuts produced by highly-inbred trees that exhibit resistance to the blight have been planted in state forests, including several hundred in DuPont State Recreational Forest. These experimental plantings are being maintained and monitored by volunteers who trim competing vegetation and check each tree for growth and signs of infection by the blight fungus.
If you want to learn more about the TACF breeding program and opportunities to monitor hybrid chestnut trees planted in DuPont Forest, plan to attend a presentation by Don Surrette on June 23. Don is a life-long resident of Brevard and was employed by the DuPont Corporation in DuPont Forest for thirty years. He has been an active volunteer with TACF for many years, including serving on the board of the Carolinas Chapter.
The presentation, which is sponsored by the Friends of DuPont Forest, is free and open to the public. It will be given at 1:30 pm on Friday, June 23 at the Cedar Mountain Community Center. The CMCC is located at 10635 Greenville Hwy in Cedar Mountain, just west of the Cedar Mountain Fire Department and the Cedar Mountain Café (great place for lunch before the presentation) at the intersection of US Hwy276 with Cascade Lake Road