More Chestnut Seedlings for the Roy Richards Seed Orchard!

The weather was fantastic (~50 degrees and sunny) for our chestnut planting at the Roy Richards “Southern Road” seed orchard this past Saturday!  We want to thank everyone who participated for the enthusiastic help (see list below).  Altogether, we added ~115 hybrid chestnut seedlings to this important orchard site.

These seedlings were grown and pre-screened for blight resistance at Berry College by Dr. Martin Cipollini and his student interns Noah Howie, Cooper Foster, and Marshall Lynch.  They originated from orchards at UGA Horticultural Research Farm (steward Ryan McNeal), Callaway Preserve (stewards Nick Poe and Sam Breyfogle), and the Berry College and the Henry Family orchards (stewards Faye Henry, Martin Cipollini, and the Berry College student interns).  Because these particular seedlings “passed” the early pre-screening, at least some of them should harbor resistance to the disease.

The orchard is on the property of Roy Richards, and is stewarded principally by Kris Owen, Sr.  It is a beautiful site near the top of a gentle knoll outside of Ellijay (Gilmer County).

We also took a moment to assess the ~300 trees that we planted at this site in 2018, and to learn more about what we are trying to accomplish with projects such as these.  Just a small handful of these older trees had either died or had developed blight cankers (we removed those trees).  Fortunately, there has been no evidence of Phytophthora root rot (black ink disease) at this site.  Once large enough, all trees at the site will be screened for blight resistance using stem inoculations (starting this summer).  The goal will be to leave only the best 1-2% of trees in the orchard to be used to produce seeds for restoration and for future breeding work.

Volunteers on Feb. 20, 2021:

Roy Richards staff: Kris Owen, Sr., Paul Carlson, Kris Owen, Jr.

Gilmer County Master Gardners and friends:  Deborah Brown Rupp, Julie Keller, Wendy Widmann, Betty Sammis, Julia and Jay Padgett, David Green

Berry College: Martin Cipollini and Caitlin Conn (faculty), Cooper Foster (student intern)

GA-TACF Board: Kathy Patrick, Ana Metaxas (with husband Jonathan Starke)

Others: Michael Dean, Kimmy Kellet

Thanks again for everyone’s help, and please look forward to future announcements about volunteer activities at this site and others in the state!