Hopes for Chestnut Revival Growing

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Joe

Hopes for Chestnut Revival Growing

Post by Joe » Tue Aug 21, 2012 11:38 am

In today's Wall St. Journal. I've attached article as a pdf file.

"Hopes for Chestnut Revival Growing
Engineered Versions of the Once-Common Species, Long Ago Wiped
Out by a Fungus, Take Root"

Joe
Attachments
WSJ-20120820-Hopes for Chestnut Revival Growing .pdf
(364.63 KiB) Downloaded 99 times

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gnmcmartin
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Re: Hopes for Chestnut Revival Growing

Post by gnmcmartin » Tue Aug 21, 2012 1:24 pm

Joe:

Thanks for the update. I have been interested in this for many years, and had, until recently, more or less kept in touch.

I remember the first approach--it was to introduce a hypovirulent strain of the fungus, which once it entered a tree, could block the virulent strain. I think this worked to save the European chestnuts, but it never really worked here, unless innoculations were made all aroung the canker. Of course there were many cankers on most trees, and it was entirely impractical. So that was the end of that. At the time I had my eye on a piece of land to buy--it was literally covered with chestnut sprouts. I could buy this, introduce the hypovirulent fungus, and voila! an instant chestnut forest. But no.

Actually, about 20 years ago I had a tour and detailed explanation of the methadology being used at SUNY Syracuse from Professor Charles Maynard, who at the time, and maybe still today, was working as a tree geneticist there. As it happens, I came to know him because of his interest in Norway spruce. I have not been in contact with him for years now.

Then, again a number of years ago, there was a planting of chestnut seedlings in Rock Creek Park in Washington D.C. These were hybrids with the Chinese chestnut, but apparently did not have the gene for resistance to the blight, and the last time I saw those plantings, they did not seem to be doing well. Maybe some survived, but I never went back to look.

And now there is a planting--really I think two plantings--at the Virginia Arboretum--actually more properly, the Blandy Experimental Farm. Over the years my hopes and interest in these projects has waned, and I have become rather pessimistic. So pessimistic that when I saw the plantings at Blandy, my reaction was just Ho-hum, and I didn't even check with anyone to see exactly what chestnuts they had planted. I think there was a sign that said they were the hybrids, and it was a part of an experiment to backcross to try to isolate the resistance gene, but select for other American chestnut characteristics.

Reference was made in the article to a planting of the SUNY seedlings in VA. The Blandy Farm would be a logical place for that to have happened--I will inquire. Maybe I can observe the progress. If so, I will try to contact Professor Maynard to follow up.

Professor Maynard had high belief in the method he was working on as SUNY, and not so much in the hybrids. If there is new hope, he will be proven right.

And, as of last year, I had a rather nice 30 foot tall chestnut sprout on my timberland. I have seen a few over the years, but they all died. This one is the best yet. But, because I have a stress fracture in my foot, I have not been able to walk around much at my timberland this summer. Maybe next time I get up there I will check on this sprout. But I see no chance that it will survive for much longer--it is of sprout origin, so it can't be of any chance resistant strain. But it is nice to see. Soon no one will see any more sprouts in Garrett county, MD. They are becoming more and more scarce.

When I first bought my timberland, there were two very large old 20 or 30 foot high "remnants" of the giant chestnuts that once grew on my property. They fell over years ago and have mostly returned to the soil. The wood is rot resistant, but eventually they give way and rejoin the soil.

--Gaines

Joe

Re: Hopes for Chestnut Revival Growing

Post by Joe » Tue Aug 21, 2012 2:27 pm

Gaines, a year ago, I attened a Forest Guild event here in central Mass. where a rep from the American Chestnut Foundation gave out 3 chestnuts from back crossed trees to those who wanted them. I have them planted in my lawn. So far so good. I'll be reporting on them as the years go by. The foundation retains rights to any chestnuts these trees produce for further research and dissemination.
Joe

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Rand
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Re: Hopes for Chestnut Revival Growing

Post by Rand » Tue Aug 21, 2012 2:33 pm

Northern michigan seems to have had better luck with hypovirulence than the rest of the chestnut's native range:
We waded through the bracken ferns that were taller than my 4-year old daughter Clare as Dr. Fulbright explained that he had been monotoring the progress of this stand for nearly 30 years. He explained that the stand had gone through a very significant decline when the blight finally caught up to it, but now many of the trees had recovered dramatically. To the untrained eye, it looked very much like a healthy stand of trees now.

Dr. Fulbright also noted that I was probably overly pessimistic in my reaction to the West Salem stand, which I described farther down on this page after my visit to it in June. That stand, Dr. Fulbright suggested, was going through the same stage of decline that the County Line stand did, but was just beginning to show signs of recovery. If that’s true, then that is extremely good news.
http://livingchestnuts.wordpress.com/20 ... -recovery/

It'd be interesting to know why.

Here's a couple of his other posts that I found interesting:

http://livingchestnuts.wordpress.com/20 ... verse-bay/

http://livingchestnuts.wordpress.com/20 ... nd-future/

http://livingchestnuts.wordpress.com/20 ... county-pa/

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Rand
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Re: Hopes for Chestnut Revival Growing

Post by Rand » Wed Aug 22, 2012 9:12 am

Gaines,

Suny-ESF has a couple of nice introductory pages one their chestnut program:


First more info on the oxalate oxidase enzyme they are introducing:
As molecular plant pathology research advances, more and more genes are being identified with a plant's ability to defend itself against disease (see Powell et al. 2006). To enhance blight resistance in the American chestnut tree, we are studying several gene products, regulatory regions of genes to control expression (promoters), and the possibility of combining two or more (gene stacking or pyramiding) for better and more sustainable resistance.

The first gene being tested in transgenic American chestnut encodes an enzyme called oxalate oxidase. This particular gene comes from wheat, but is found in many grass species. We have shown that this gene can enhance resistance to a fungal pathogen in transgenic poplar (see Liang et al. 2001). The oxalate oxidase gene is also being tested by other researchers to enhance pathogen resistance in many other plant systems such as peanut, soybean, sunflower, and oilseed rape and also to possibly increase salt tolerance in tomato. This gene was chosen to be used in American chestnut because the blight causing fungus, Cryphonectria parasitica, produces large amounts of oxalate at the margin of a canker. The oxalate oxidase enzyme can detoxify the oxalate by breaking it down to carbon dioxide and hydrogen peroxide. The hydrogen peroxide might have a second function which helps strengthen the lignin in the barrier produced by the chestnut in an effort to wall-off the fungal infection. We have some evidence that the oxalate oxidase enzyme can enhance lignin formation (see Welch et al. 2006). The first transgenic American chestnut trees planted in field tests contain the wheat oxalate oxidase gene controlled by a a vascular promoter isolated from soybean so that the enzyme is predominantly expressed in the stem tissues where infections occur.

Other genes that will be tested include a gene encoding an antimicrobial peptide which we have shown to enhance fungal resistance in poplar (see Liang et al 2002), a stacked (or pyramid) construct encoding the enzymes chitinase and oxalate oxidase (see Liang et al 2005), among other genes and gene promoters. We have also embarked on a multi-university collaborative effort to identify the resistant genes in Chinese chestnut (see Fagaceae genome project), which could be used to transform American chestnut in the future.
http://www.esf.edu/chestnut/resistance- ... 0genes.htm

Next they describe the propagation process. It's just eye wateringly difficult:
Rooting

Now the shoots are ready to be rooted. They are dipped into a liquid solution of a rooting hormone and then placed in a charcoal medium to absorb the excess hormone. Anywhere from 10 to 60 percent of the shoots going through this process will develop roots. These rooted plants are put in potting mix and then they go through an acclimatization process.

Acclimatization

This has proven to be the most difficult part of American chestnut tissue culture. The plants are very sensitive to slight environmental changes and will die under the wrong circumstances. Lids are kept over the plants to reproduce the high humidity they were used to in tissue culture. The lids are removed in stages to let the plants get acclimated to ambient conditions slowly. They are watered and fertilized when needed. Only one to three percent of plants going through acclimatization survive to be planted in the field.
http://www.esf.edu/chestnut/tissue-culture.htm

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Larry Tucei
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Re: Hopes for Chestnut Revival Growing

Post by Larry Tucei » Wed Aug 22, 2012 11:03 am

Joe, Gaines, Randy, all, I would really enjoy helping getting the Chestnut re-established. I wish I could have been around years ago to see the giant Chestnuts throughout North America. I was lucky enough to visit a large one in Northern Wisconsin thanks to directions for Paul Jost back in 09. So far it has escaped the blight and had lots of Chestnut Hulls on the ground. It may be possible to have some of those collected for growing in the future. From the posting back in 09 on ENTS,"Thanks to Paul Jost for giving me directions to one of the largest Chestnut trees in Wisconsin and in the U.S. The tree had been trimmed by a local Arborist recently and may be declining with a hollowing core. Still a magnificent specimen and the first Chestnut I'd ever seen. My friend Joe and I drove about 90 miles to enjoy and measure this beauty. It was cold in the 30's that day for the high. We stayed with the tree for about an hour and it was a thrill for me to finally see a Chestnut. Paul had reported on this tree in the past and again my thanks to him for sharing this with me. The trees Measurements were CBH-12' 7", Height-48' and Spread-52' x 30'. It is located on the corner of Manypenny and 7th Ave., Bayfield Wi. Some photos of the tree." Larry
Attachments
chesnut+range.jpg
Chestnut%204.jpg
American Chestnut Bayfield Wis 2009.jpg

Joe

Re: Hopes for Chestnut Revival Growing

Post by Joe » Wed Aug 22, 2012 12:02 pm

Larry Tucei wrote:I wish I could have been around years ago to see the giant Chestnuts throughout North America.
I wish I was around a 1,000 years ago to see what this continent was like with all the species we've lost; with the entire place a wilderness; with people living here who didn't overwhelm the Earth.

Would I like to live like a hunter-gather? Absolutely. I believe that was the highest point in human evolution.

I'm quite serious about this and wouldn't mind a longer conversation about "life as a primitive" but it should be in a different thread.
Joe

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jamesrobertsmith
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Re: Hopes for Chestnut Revival Growing

Post by jamesrobertsmith » Wed Aug 22, 2012 1:56 pm

Hell...crank it back a notch or two until you're back before the Pleistocene extinctions in NA. You could have seen the megafauna exterminated by the humans who swept across the Americas, killing and eating everything in their wake.

Joe

Re: Hopes for Chestnut Revival Growing

Post by Joe » Wed Aug 22, 2012 3:19 pm

jamesrobertsmith wrote:Hell...crank it back a notch or two until you're back before the Pleistocene extinctions in NA. You could have seen the megafauna exterminated by the humans who swept across the Americas, killing and eating everything in their wake.
must have been a great time for hunters with all those animals not afraid of humans!

though I wouldn't put all the blame on the hunters for the loss of those species...
Joe

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jamesrobertsmith
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Re: Hopes for Chestnut Revival Growing

Post by jamesrobertsmith » Sat Aug 25, 2012 11:59 am

Joe wrote:
jamesrobertsmith wrote:Hell...crank it back a notch or two until you're back before the Pleistocene extinctions in NA. You could have seen the megafauna exterminated by the humans who swept across the Americas, killing and eating everything in their wake.
must have been a great time for hunters with all those animals not afraid of humans!

though I wouldn't put all the blame on the hunters for the loss of those species...
Joe
I would. I've read a number of essays, books, and papers on the subject and humans are the prime reason (I am convinced) for the mass extinctions of the Pleistocene megafauna. It was human predation that did them in, either directly or indirectly in a few cases. Chasing vast herds of animals off of cliffs for a few pounds of meat--typical human behavior. Killing off the young of animals who breed slowly--more typical human behavior. Slaughtering animals at will who have no defense against spears and fire and traps--well, that's how it was done. I'm amazed that anything of size survived the onslaught of Homo sapiens sapiens across Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas.

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