Research Updates – 2014

Courtesy of Dr. Brian Roth, University of Maine

Planting Stock Comparison Trial

Graph showing planting stock growth comparison.

Graph showing planting stock growth comparison.

In April 2014 a small field trial was established in Steuben to test the performance of various planting stock types and seed sources in the wild with the presence of browsing animals. Early results show differences between trees planted from seed, seedlings in small pots and large bare-root whips.

Phenology Study at Huff Hill Orchard

Leaf stages of development

Leaf stages of development

Another project, conducted by University of Maine student Dalton Herrick-Wagman, is looking at the variation in the timing of spring leaf flush at the Huff Hill Seed Orchard at Hartland. This is important as if leaves flush too early in the spring they may be susceptible to damage from late frosts.

Air Campaign to Discover Mature Chestnut Trees in Maine Takes Off

Near Infrared image of a mature chestnut in bloom. The American Chestnut is the only native tree species in bloom during this time of year. Photo David Sandilands.

Near Infrared image of a mature chestnut in bloom. The American Chestnut is the only native tree species in bloom during this time of year. Photo David Sandilands.

With the discovery of a 95 foot tall disease free American Chestnut tree in Hebron, Maine in 2012 came the excitement that there may be many more of these rare trees remaining undiscovered in the woods of Maine. “These native trees hold important sources of information and germplasm that is needed for the restoration of the species” according to Dr. Brian Roth, a forest researcher at the University of Maine (UMaine).

There is a sense of urgency to discover the locations of these trees hidden in the Maine woods before they succumb to the blight. “About half of the known mature chestnut trees in Maine have died since I became involved with the TACF in the late 1990’s” according to Roger Willby, chairman of the Gene Preservation Committee with the Maine Chapter (METACF).

To this end, METACF has partnered with the Maine Image Analysis Laboratory and the Barbara Wheatland Geospatial Analysis Laboratory at UMaine to launch a two-year chestnut discovery air campaign. The unique spectral signature of mature chestnut trees in bloom is detected and mapped using sophisticated cameras, software and Geographic Positioning Systems mounted under a Cessna 172 airplane. It is expected that the first discoveries will be made in the summer of 2015.

Soil Mapping GIS Project

GIS Soil Map

GIS Soil Map

A Geographic Information System project to determine suitable soils and climates where chestnut trees may be discovered and/or planted in the future as part of the restoration effort. In other words, using GIS and soil maps to determine where chestnut trees are most likely to grow well. A Google Earth .KMZ file can be downloaded here where you can see all the places in Maine where chestnuts are expected to grow (Green = excellent, Yellow = good, Red = moderate).

Disease Resistance and Cold Tolerance Test Plantings

The Maine chapter is about five years away from producing significant amounts of potentially blight resistant B3F3 seed. There is uncertainty how well adapted this material will be to cold Maine winters as there is evidence of a tradeoff between blight resistance from Chinese sources and their vulnerability to winter shoot injury. These early trials will provide data on blight resistance and cold adaptation which will be informative for a reintroduction program in Maine and other northern breeding zones.