Planting a Seed Orchard at the Pryor Farm

April 21, 2012

B3F2 chestnut seed propagated by the Carolinas Chapter were planted by a team of volunteers at the Pryor Farm in Henderson County, NC to help establish a seed orchard. Trees growing from the seed will be tested in two years and again in five years to select a few trees which have a high degree of resistance to chestnut blight fungus. The selected trees will cross with each other to produce B3F3 chestnut seed later this decade. Trees grown from those crosses are expected to be highly resistant to chestnut blight. Click on any photograph to enlarge it.

  • Scott Pryor, plowed the field and disked the soil to prepare the orchard for planting.
  • Scott Pryor and Paul Sisco earlier had placed red flags to mark the edge of rows. The rows were first covered with black plastic to control weeds and then landscape fabric that could be walked upon while planting seed nuts and later when maintaining the seedlings.
  • Jon Taylor helps Paul Sisco laid down black plastic to cover a row. Teams of two people each follow behind to straighten the plastic and stretch it tight before pinning it to the ground with “U” shaped landscape cloth pins. The plastic is pinned about every 12 feet along both sides.
  • Scott Pryor and Don Surrette pin the plastic to the ground.
  • Landscape cloth is spread over the black plastic and pinned in a similar manner. Judy Coker and Judy Sutton are pictured pinning the landscape cloth initially every 8 feet or so and will return later to pin it every 4 feet or so down each side. The pins will keep strong winds from lifting up the plastic and landscape cloth.
  • A marker is placed every two feet along the length of a 200-foot measuring tape that has been stretched the length of the row.
  • Paul Franklin cut a hole through the landscape fabric and plastic to a depth of about four inches. A hole is cut every two feet where marked with flags.
  • Paul Sisco labeled and placed red flags at the beginning and ending points where selected crosses of chestnut seed will be planted. The flag indicates what type of seed nuts were planted throughout the orchard and Paul Sisco prepared a chart to replicate where the various crosses are planted for tracking purposes.
  • Judy Sutton places a handful of prepared soil mix in the planting hole while Judy Coker selects a seed nut to place in the hole. The planting mix is equal parts of peat moss, vermiculite, and perlite.
  • Judy Sutton slides a 10″ long, 2.5″ diameter aluminum cylinder half way down into the hole, careful not to damage the nut. Judy Coker next places another handful of premixed soil in the cylinder to cover the nut about 1″ deep.
  • Different varietes of F1 control seeds are also planted in the orchard. The F1 seedlings and B3F2 seedlings will be inoculated in two years with a weak strain of chestnut blight fungus to test resistance. B3F2 seedlings that do not resist the fungus at least as well as the F1 controls will be removed from the orchard. At about five years of age, the trees will be inoculated again with a virulent form of the fungus at their bases and with the weaker strain higher up on the trunks. B3F2 trees displaying a high degree of resistance will be kept in the seed orchard where they can open pollinate and produce B3F3 seed. Theoretically, 1 in 64 seedlings will have a high degree of resistance. Of the 331, B3F2 seed planted in the orchard, five are expected to produce trees that have a high degree of resistance to chestnut blight.
  • Several crosses of trees from the Pryor Orchard produced some of the B3F2 seed being planted in the seed orchard. Crosses from the Acker/Funk Farm, Vonk Farm, Motsinger Farm, and Cliffs of Glassy Orchard also were planted in the seed orchard.
  • After all nuts were planted, a cup is placed over each aluminum cylinder to control moisture in the hole as the seed should not be too wet while germinating. The cups also protect against frost damage. They will be removed after the nuts germinate and danger of frost damage to the young seedlings has passed.
  • By mid afternoon, all seed nuts were planted and tools were but away. Not pictured are others who helped with the planting. They included Paul Franklin’s wife, Steve Barilovits, and Mick Pryor who helped with the planting; Bonnie Pryor who helped prepare lunch; and Doug Gillis who helped with the planting and photographed the session.