On April 30, 2022 volunteers from the Indiana chapter of TACF planted an additional 24 pure American chestnut seedlings at the chapter’s germplasm conservation orchard (GCO) in Clinton county Indiana. This is the second year in which seedlings have been added to the original planting. A check of the trees planted last year showed very vigorous growth and nearly 100% survival, although there was evidence that deer had been nibbling on twigs that has grown out of the top of the tubes. Both the seedlings planted last year and those planted this year were planted in 5 foot tall tree tubes.
The first planting at the Clinton county site had been enclosed in a plastic mesh fence but the individual seedlings were not in tubes. We had noticed that the seedlings in the rows on the east side of the planting had suffered the highest mortality and speculated that this was due to drift of herbicide from the bordering corn field about 50 feet away. The tubes protect the chestnut seedlings from any herbicide blowing over from the field.
The pure American chestnuts being grown in this GCO are progeny of Indiana trees that had escaped the blight long enough that we were able to obtain seed from them or cuttings which could be grafted onto modern rootstock to continue their genetic lineage. The importance of preserving the genetics of these original Indiana chestnut trees cannot be emphasized enough! Although TACF has produced a transgenic American chestnut tree, the Darling 58 tree, this is only tree from one location. TACF plans to use pollen from the Darling 58 tree to pollinate other American chestnuts all over the chestnut range. It will confer the benefit of the OxO resistance gene to these other chestnuts. But surviving original chestnut trees are each adapted to their own unique original location. Their genetics will be preserved so that it can be combined with blight resistant trees like the Darling 58 to produce more highly resistant trees that are adapted to many Indiana locations.