2006 Chestnut Planting at Pryor Farm

March 17, 2006

Nancy and Scott Pryor turned part of their farm  into an orchard for growing hybrid chestnuts through a cooperative effort involving the American Chestnut Foundation and the Carolinas Chapter.  Under the direction of Dr. Paul Sisco, Regional Science Coordinator for the American Chestnut Foundation, the Carolinas Chapter plants chestnuts harvested in the fall of 2005 at the Pryor Farm near Edneyville, NC.

Scott Pryor and David Flood shovel dirt onto the edges of the landscape fabric placed on top of the planting rows. The fabric, which is resistant to degradation by ultra violet light and which is strong and light weight, is used to keep weeds from growing in the planting beds which would compete with the chestnut seedlings.

Dr. Paul Sisco marks a place every seven feet where each chestnut will be planted. The flags are later labeled to identify the chestnuts being planted. Dr. Sisco uses the flags to prepare a diagram of the orchard which identifies the source of the pollen and the American parent tree with which it was crossed to produce each nut.

Since the trees that will grow from the chestnuts being planted will be inoculated with chestnut blight in four years, the fungus that will be introduced will need to be tested to determine if it produces the expected results among the control trees and, thus, provide a comparison to how the hybrid trees react to the blight. The control trees will include 100% Chinese chestnut trees which should be highly resistant to the blight, 100% American chestnut trees that will be very susceptible to the blight, and 50% Chinese/50% American chestnut trees that will be somewhat resistant to the blight.

A planting mix consisting of 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 pearlite, and 1/3 peat moss is placed in the hole and tamped down to just below the level of the surrounding ground. The nut is placed in the hole and covered with ½ inch of planting mixture. A 10 inch long, 2 inch diameter aluminum cylinder is carefully placed in the hole and pressed half way into the earth. The aluminum cylinder will protect the nut from voles, mice and other varmints that would try to dig it up before it sprouts into a seedling.  As the seedlings grow, additional fencing will be added to further protect the young trees.  Within a year, the chestnuts being planted the spring of 2006 will have grown into young trees.