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E. Daniel Ayres - zundapman - intro

Posted: Tue Aug 23, 2011 11:27 am
by zundapman
Hi ENTS... When I reired some years ago, one of my mantras for my retirement was, "I'm going to plant trees until I drop." So far, I don't have a particularly good track record. My first "big" project was the creation of approximately 1200 stems of transplantable essentially open pollinated Chestnut Trees from nuts obtained from a "nut farmer" in Antrim County, Michigan. The lots of bagged nuts, labeled for breeding experiments conducted the year before had been sprouting in a refirigerator because no one associated with the nut farm had the gumption to plant them. I received the bagged batches without documentation but with a promise that I could get it later. I was told I would be receiving over 3,000 viable nuts and planned in advance accordingy with an order for nursery trays and plant bands from Monarch. I had sense enough to buy the more expensive "heavy duty" plant bands because I was not in a postition to grow the nuts in a greenhouse shelter. Not knowing any better, I purchased standard local "lawn cover" topsoil that was delivered to landscape contractors working in the area by a well established local service provider. By the time I had the nuts in my possession and was able to start actually planting them in the nursery trays it was the third week in May and many of the bagged nuts had sprouts up to several inches long. Some of the bags of nuts had fermented turning the juice in them into a kind of liquor. None of the nuts from these batches were viable. Of the 3000 plus nuts I recieved, only 2400 were judged to have any chance of sprouting. Of those that were planted, by September, I had around 1200 living stems. Unfortunately I had spent most of my time and effort all season just keeping the nursery trays watered and free enough from weeds to prevent some "shade kill." I had also worn myself out. I was only able to get abut 250 of the stems transplanted out, many of them into fairly random and unattended spots in soils not particularly hospitable to Chestnut. Living in Washtenaw County, MI, our average pH is 7.4 or more, and the sites where I was working were disturbed subsoils with even higher pH ranging from 7.6 to 8.0. These locations were not ideal places for baby Chestnuts to survive, but the planting sites were places I had access to and support from landowners willing to allow the potential trees to survive in the locations we identified. Of the stems not planted in the fall, a large number survived the winter only to be killed by freaky spring weather as the nursery trays set out in field locations were subjected to daily warm-ups followed by windy cold nights that created a freeze-thaw mechanism which actually cracked off many of the stems close to the ground surface as they started to bud out. The shock proved too much for almost all of the stems that broke off. A single varmit, probably a rabbit or muskrat munched on another 100 plus stems. Setting the survivors out in the spring was a long-drawn out effort involving a few stems a day. Survival was hampered by draught and the fact that many of the sites were un-mown "old field" grass infested sites where hay mowing had been one of the most recent agricultural uses. The unmown grasses shaded out and killed off the young seedlings by limiting available moisture and sunlight. Now, I walk my dog past about five surviving stems on the margin of a golf course which is adjacent to my house and note that two of the five have successfully open-pollinated each other and I can count between 30 and 45 burrs, some eight seasons since the planting effort was made. There may be as many as 60 stems from the effort surviving in various locations around the county. So much for my "Chestnut Project." Last fall I underwent major thoracic surgery for an upper aortic aneurysm and have been instructed by the medical profession not to lift push or pull more than 50lb and to avoid repetitive lifting efforts like shoveling. This situation makes it unlikely that I can persue the kind of project described above again in my lifetime.

I hold the internet name: "afforestation.org" registered over ten years ago but never publicly hosted. I'm looking for collaborators to help put together a volunteer and charitably supported effort to promote and facilitate tree planting projects and document them for research and practical purposes. Anyone interested in collaborating with me is encouraged to contact me directly. I'm on Facebook, have an old personal web site at http://home.comcast.net/~eayres. and use the "handle" ZundapMan based on my passion for a vintage motorcycle designed by Ferdinand Porsche before WWII and manufactured in Hamburg by ZundappWerke until 1956-7 when compentition from BMW finally killed it. I worked in a motorcycle shop one summer for a retired sidecar racer who had been a dealer and had dominated side car racing in the upper midwest circuit with one during the mid 1950's.

Re: E. Daniel Ayres - zundapman - intro

Posted: Tue Aug 23, 2011 1:22 pm
by Rand
I got some seedlings from the American Chestnut Council based in CAdillac Michigan during the early 90's. Like you I planted them in nonideal soil (wet clay soil, over limestone bedrock). I started with 5, lost 2 within 3 years, and then lost another one to a summer drought. So after 15 now I'm down to 1 that grew well, and one that's just starting to come out hibernation.

The biggest thing I learned is how catastrophic dear browsing is to a tree's growth rate.

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