ME- and VT/NH-TACF Chapters Collaborate to Advance Chestnut Restoration
By Curt Laffin, VT/NH-TACF Chapter Vice President
On August 24-25, 2021 ME-TACF Chapter Vice President Tom Klak, and VT/NH-TACF Chapter President Doug McLane, once again combined efforts to move American chestnut restoration forward. They checked the condition of hundreds of chestnut flowers at Cape Elizabeth, ME that they had pollinated earlier with transgenic pollen. This was one more important step in the transgenic chestnut experiment underway at the University of New England (UNE) through Klak’s leadership. His work is closely coordinated with SUNY’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry at Syracuse where the transgenic chestnut was developed.
When the pollinated nuts mature they will be harvested and each one painstakingly analyzed to determine which have inherited the transgenic tree’s oxidase enzyme that will allow the next generation to tolerate chestnut blight. About half of the nuts typically inherit the gene.
All TACF chapters are actively locating nut-producing wild-type American chestnuts and planting them in Germplasm Conservation Orchards. Trees grown from these nuts will be pollinated with transgenic pollen once it is approved for distribution by Federal agencies. Klak’s work at UNE is tightly controlled under strict USDA permits.
Pollinating and harvesting hundreds of chestnuts is difficult and labor intensive work. The dedication of Tom, Doug, and other chapter volunteers is greatly appreciated!