Phytophthora Cinnamomi Research at Chestnut Return, SC

February 25, 2008

Carolinas Chapter volunteers and Board Members Steve Barilovits III and Doug Gillis helped Dr. Joe James transplant chestnut seedlings to larger pots so futher research involving Phytophthora cinnamomi can be conducted at his farm, Chestnut Return. The research is critical to developing strains of hybrid chestnut trees resistant to Phytophthora cinnamomi, or root rot, disease. The disease, thought to have been imported into America in the 1700s on Asian plant stock kills American chestnut trees. Chinese chestnut trees are resistant to the disease. Cross and backcrossed hybrid chestnut seedlings are tested at the farm to identify ones that resist the disease. Seedlings screened for their degree of resistance to root rot disease are grown in orchards so the more resistant, survivor trees can provide breeding stock to cross with hybrid chestnut trees that are resistant to the chestnut bark blight.

  • Dr. Joe James conducts research on Phytophthora cinnamomi, or root rot, disease at his farm, Chestnut Return, located near Seneca, SC. He works with Dr. Steve Jeffers of nearby Clemson University in conducting the research.
  • All trees are tagged to identify the family. With the exception of one family, all previously have been exposed to Phytopthora cinnamomi.
  • Samples are labeled and stored to be taken to Clemson University where they will be analyzed in a laboratory which conducts research on Phytophthora.
  • Steve Barilovits III removes a chestnut seedling from the binder tube it was initially grown in at North Carolina State University. The seedlings were brought from NCSU to Chestnut Return for further research.
  • Mulch is used to encase the double row of potted plants to insulate the seedlings from too cold or too hot of weather conditions and to prevent loss of moisture.
  • Seedlings started the previous year will be used in an experiment later in the spring that tests grafting techniques, wherein chestnut scions are grafted to the host seedlings and grown to a proper size. After reaching that size, soil will be mounded around the base of seedling to cover the graft to encourage root growth from the original scion wood.