Connecticut Chapter

Host An Orchard

If you want to play a role in the restoration of the American Chestnut, you can become a partner of TACF and offer a new location for a Germplasm Conservation Orchard (GCO)!

A germplasm conservation orchard (GCO) is an orchard collection of diverse wild American chestnut sources. In partnership with the CT Chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation (CT-TACF), this orchard would include sources primarily native to CT, though other sources could be planted as well. A GCO generally contains 10 seedlings from 10 different mother trees (100 trees) per acre and is often planted over a period of one to several years, but can be scaled up or down as space and resources allow. Site location is best for a sunny area with well-draining soil and preferably, southern exposure. Old agricultural fields or recently clear-cut patches are suitable and a soil test is performed to determine the nutrient content and see how much replenishment with fertilizer is needed. Most of these trees are started from seed, though grafted or transplanted sources may be used as well. Finding new sources to plant can take some time, and therefore somewhat difficult to predict exactly how many seed will be planted each year. As such, this type of orchard may take several years before fully planted. Annual meetings between CT-TACF and the orchard host will be held at least annually and will help to review the status of the project and also provide a mechanism for planning the upcoming year’s activities.

Successful orchard management tries to mitigate the major sources of mortality for the nuts and trees planted. These include but are not limited to: rodents, raccoons, turkeys, and bears eating the nuts; voles, mice, and deer eating bark or twigs; drought stress; competition from weeds; standing water; insect infestations; and mowing over trees. Trees that are well nourished and watered respond better to most threats than trees that are stressed. Successful orchards respond well to simple management practices, such as maintenance of fencing, periodic weeding, watering and fertilizing. In addition, accurate labelling, record keeping, and data collection are of great importance for tracking and future use of the trees for scientific purposes.

Land Trusts would be the ideal arrangement since the land, access, and purpose is traditionally already established. Two new GCOs planted in April 2021 have Land Trust ties.

Germplasm Conservation Orchard

Suggested Layout

A blocked layout that keeps genotypes together is recommended. This is the simplest way to keep sources clear. A wide buffer between blocks allows for good pollination access. With this design, orchard managers will need to resist the urge to plant within the buffer rows, especially while trees are small. It is also important that any replacements are only made with the same genotype.

A six-block example:

Pollination and Harvest

As trees grow old enough to begin flowering, they may be used for transgenic diversification or other crosses of interest. Chestnuts start flowering in June, with full bloom coming in early-mid July. For controlled pollinations, flowers are typically bagged in late June or early July, pollinated 10-14 days later, and harvested in late September or early October. Pollination requires working directly with the flowers and is typically done from a ladder or bucket truck, though small trees may be pollinated from the ground. As more trees begin flower the potential also exists for harvesting open-pollinated nuts. These may be used for TACF science programs, eating, or both.

Blight Control Measures

As wild-type American sources, the trees in a GCO are not expected to have any blight resistance and blight will eventually move through the orchard. Main stems will be killed over time and should be allowed to re-sprout. There are some methods that could be used to try to keep them alive longer. Mudpacking can be used and is most effective if cankers are caught early. Assessing the trees for blight annually (or more frequently), so mudpacking can be planned for, is helpful. Hypovirulence treatment is also a possibility, though not currently widely available.

Further Reading to Assess Expectations

A sample Orchard Management Plan
A sample CT GCO agreement
An article (page 15) from the Journal of the American Chestnut Foundation.

Interested parties should contact the Connecticut chapter for more details.

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Pictured here: An 1891 circular for American chestnuts reveals the value of chestnuts to our community of growers and the agricultural pipeline that fed our families and communities. This circular shows $271,527 in sales from TWO months of harvesting. Today's value would be almost $9 million! The seller of these chestnuts probably paid less than $2/bushel wholesale but market rate was about $10 to $12 per bushel. According to research, the legal weight limit of a bushel of chestnuts was about 50 pounds (in TN) and 57 pounds (in VA). This two months of harvesting amounted to approximately 1.3 million pounds of chestnuts. ... See MoreSee Less

Pictured here: An 1891 circular for American chestnuts reveals the value of chestnuts to our community of growers and the agricultural pipeline that fed our families and communities. This circular shows $271,527 in sales from TWO months of harvesting. Todays value would be almost $9 million! The seller of these chestnuts probably paid less than $2/bushel wholesale but market rate was about $10 to $12 per bushel. According to research, the legal weight limit of a bushel of chestnuts was about 50 pounds (in TN) and 57 pounds (in VA). This two months of harvesting amounted to approximately 1.3 million pounds of chestnuts.

Comment on Facebook

These numbers from 1981 are hard to believe. This was just prior to the introduction of chestnut blight in the USA when there was likely an abundance of trees and nuts. There is no header to indicate buyer / seller/ location. Dated Fall of 1890 is not a good business practice. The perfect print looks like it was done on a modern day grocery bag. Was this created by AI?

Where was the harvest? European or Japanese hybrids?

youtu.be/2VYviSHyB98

Meet Ciera! Our nursery manager at Meadowview Research Farms.

This interview is episode 1 of our new YouTube series "Behind the Bark."

Behind the Bark is a casual interview series by The American Chestnut Foundation to dive deeper into the lives of the wonderful people who are behind the mission of returning the iconic American chestnut to its native range.

The American Chestnut Foundation's Meadowview Research Farms
... See MoreSee Less

Video image

Comment on Facebook

One of the biggest questions we receive is "how do I submit a public comment, what am I supposed to say?" The answer is pretty simple: why does the American chestnut tree matter to you? When submitting a comment, you just need to be unique and authentic. Tell your personal story of why the American chestnut is important to you: maybe your family grew up with chestnut trees and can remember when they filled the forests, or maybe you're passionate about forest health and restoration, or maybe you grow chestnut trees on your land and want more.

The USDA looks for unique and custom comments. You don't have to be a scientist to support the restoration of the American chestnut! You can be anyone, all you need is a few sentences of why you support this effort. Check out these helpful tips and sample comments that we've compiled if you're still unsure of what to say. Be sure to submit your comment by midnight on Thursday, January 26.

Visit acf.org/resources-deregulation-darling58/ to learn more and to submit your comment.
... See MoreSee Less

One of the biggest questions we receive is how do I submit a public comment, what am I supposed to say? The answer is pretty simple: why does the American chestnut tree matter to you? When submitting a comment, you just need to be unique and authentic. Tell your personal story of why the American chestnut is important to you: maybe your family grew up with chestnut trees and can remember when they filled the forests, or maybe youre passionate about forest health and restoration, or maybe you grow chestnut trees on your land and want more. 

The USDA looks for unique and custom comments. You dont have to be a scientist to support the restoration of the American chestnut! You can be anyone, all you need is a few sentences of why you support this effort. Check out these helpful tips and sample comments that weve compiled if youre still unsure of what to say. Be sure to submit your comment by midnight on Thursday, January 26. 

Visit https://acf.org/resources-deregulation-darling58/ to learn more and to submit your comment.Image attachmentImage attachment+3Image attachment
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