Below are descriptions and photos of some of our orchards. For a complete listing of all our seed and backcross orchards, click here.
Mosher Orchard in Hope
In April of 2006, with the generous help of a number of volunteers, a one acre patch of beech forest was cleared and planted with one year old chestnut seedlings. Most of these were third backcross trees from a mother tree at the grove in Atkinson. The rest were pure American, pure Chinese, and F1 hybrid controls for a total of 82 trees. These trees grew rapidly compared with those in other breeding orchards since they were planted in forest soil rather than in a field. This soil harbored more symbiotic microorganisms particularly helpful to chestnut growth. Similar results have been observed at our breeding orchard planted in the Penobscot Experimental Forest in Bradley the same year.
In the spring of 2008 another 122 trees were planted as seed, mostly from mother trees in Camden and Orono. In both the first and second plots the trees are from pollen that was of the Clapper line of blight resistance. A 2012 planting of seed from the Orono mother tree, expanding plot #2, brought the total for the entire orchard to roughly 240 trees including controls, but mostly third backcross hybrids, which are 15/16 American and 1/16 Chinese, having been selected for Chinese resistance but otherwise American characteristics.
Further selection begins in June 2013 when the trees in plot one will be inoculated with the blight. Inoculation in plot two should begin in another year or two. The 10% or so that exhibits greatest resistance plus American characteristics will be allowed to breed with each other; the rest will be culled. Seed from these trees will be planted in seed orchards, with roughly one in 150 exhibiting full resistance. Those that remain in the seed orchards should breed true for blight resistance. Come have a look; better yet, volunteer.
Merryspring and Groce Orchards
In 1999 we planted our first breeding orchards in Merryspring Nature Center in Camden and on Dr. Phil Groce’s property in Union. Most of the six lines of parentage planted were duplicated in the two sites. In the Groce orchard, most of the seedlings died as a result of white grubs in the soil and poor soil drainage. About 30 trees survived on the highest end of the orchard, and thrived under Dr. Groces care.
At Merryspring, all seedlings of one of the lines died and were replaced in 2002 by a new line. Survival and growth in the Merryspring site has been generally good, except in a wet area where all of the trees died in the 7th through 9th years of growth.
In 2007 we injected live lab-grown blight fungus into each tree – about 100 in Merryspring and 30 in Groce’s orchard—to evaluate their blight resistance (click here to see photos of this process). After removing all but the best dozen trees in the two orchards, we harvested our first crop of B3F2 seeds in 2011 and another in 2012, for planting in our new seed orchards.
Highmoor Farm Orchard in Monmouth
We planted 14 breeding lines at the University of Maine’s Agriculture Experiment Station, Highmoor Farm in Monmouth, in 2002-2004. We inoculated the first 12 lines with live blight fungus in 2009, and will inoculate the remaining two lines in 2013.
Granger Farm Orchards in China (Weeks Mills), Maine
In May 2002 the first breeding orchard on land owned by Dr. Clark Granger was established with the planting of 4 lines of Graves B3-F1 seeds. This was followed with the planting of 2 more lines on a lower orchard the following year. Clark Granger has done a tremendous job in keeping these alive through drought, keeping the weeds under control, and fertilizing them, and in general keeping a good watch over them. The summer of 2002, the year the first seeds were planted, was an extremely dry one and the use of Dr. Granger’s equipment allowed us to have the seedlings watered on a regular basis. The first trees were inoculated in the summer of 2008 while the second orchard was inoculated in 2009. The trees have been culled to remove those with the least amount of resistance to the blight, and seeds from these trees have been planted in our Graves seed orchards at various locations in Maine. Charlie Hudson has been managing these trees for the Maine chapter for the past 11 years.
Bok Orchard in Hope
Reed Orchard in Unity
Rowe Orchard in Hope
Huff Hill Seed Orchards in Hartland
On land owned by the Univ. of Maine and managed as a Tree Farm by the School of Forestry we have our largest single complex of 5 seed orchards in an area of about 5 acres. The land is excellent for growing chestnut trees as it is comprised mostly of Plaisted soil that is well drained. The land was once cultivated for small crops on a farm owned by the Baxter family (Gov. Baxter’s brother) and is comprised of about 180 acres. The 5 orchards were established in May 2012 and will be added to as seeds from the Graves line become available.
Excellent cooperation from the Jim Steadman family, who own a camp next to the property, has resulted in a good example of what can be accomplished with people who are willing to assist in our endeavors; in addition to the fine support of Prof. Al Kimball and his staff at the Univ. of Maine School of Forestry – Orono. Glen Rea, a graduate of the UMO forestry school, is the orchard manager for these 5 orchards.
SWOAM Seed Orchards in Searsport and Winthrop
The Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine has very generously made available some of their property for the Maine Chapter to use for our chestnut seed orchards to be planted this spring (2013). There is one site in Searsport where we will plant two seed orchard units, and two sites in Winthrop where we will plant four units. All of these sites are currently fields with soils well-suited to chestnut culture. We applied 3-ft-wide strips of landscape fabric in rows 7 ft apart in September 2012, and planted the seeds through holes in the fabric in April 2013.
The Nature Conservancy Seed Orchard in Phippsburg
The Nature Conservancy is our partner in managing the new seed orchard on their Basin Preserve in Phippsburg. The planting consists of two 3/4-acre orchard units in a reclaimed gravel pit. We planted 1500 seeds in spring 2012, and will raise that total to 6000 in the next several years. After blight-resistance evaluation, we will save the best 40 trees for seed production for chestnut restoration projects.
Penobscot County Conservation Assoc. (PCCA) Seed Orchards in Stetson
The PCCA is a long established organization (1928) that promotes conservation and development in area of wildlife, fisheries, and forestry and they own a considerable amount of land in the Stetson area that they allowed the Maine Chapter of TACF to use in their long-term breeding program. There are 3 orchards of Clapper lines that were planted in May 2012, and then they provided the money to clear two more acres a short distance away for 2 lines that will be planted in May 2013.
Their donation of land, clearing the trees and excavating the stumps has been a tremendous contribution to our program. Al Faust and Bucky Owen, both members of the Maine chapter board of directors, are also members of PCCA, have been most helpful in bringing the two organizations together and launching this great long-term project. There is additional land that we could use, if necessary, in this large forested area. Glen Rea is the orchard manager for these 5 orchards and has great assistance from volunteers of PCCA.