American Chestnut Update: Big Funding News, Public Comment Needed, Seed Engraving, and a Podcast

(Above) Sergey Jivetin creates elaborate engravings on the shells of seeds, including a series carved on American chestnut seeds depicting The American Chestnut Foundation’s restoration efforts. One nut (enlarged) illustrates the American Chestnut Research and Restoration Project’s insertion of the oxalate oxidase gene into the American chestnut genome. To see more of Sergey Jivetin’s work, check out his website, Furrow Seed Engraving Project.

Major Gift to SUNY-ESF Chestnut Restoration Project
The SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF) has announced a grant of $3.2 million over three years from the Templeton World Charity Foundation in support of efforts to restore the endangered American chestnut. This is SUNY-ESF’s largest-ever charitable gift.

The funding will support research and efforts to restore the economically and culturally significant tree species, billions of which were killed by a blight in the early twentieth century. ESF has genetically engineered a new strain of chestnut that includes a single gene from wheat, enabling the tree to detoxify the oxalic acid produced by the invasive fungus that causes the blight. According to the school, this is the first time scientists have sought approval for genetic engineering to restore a native tree species. Earlier this year, the research team submitted to federal agencies a petition that lays out the case for public distribution of the genetically engineered strain.

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Chestnut Tree Restoration: Help by Planting Nuts for “Mother Trees”

blight resistant chestnut in flower
Open-grown (full sun) American chestnut trees can flower in just three years. Photo by Allen Nichols

“We need people all over NY and in other states to plant pure wild American chestnuts so they have ‘mother trees’ to cross with our blight-resistant tree, when it is approved for release, hopefully in the next few years,” says Allen Nichols, president of the NY Chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF). This is a continuation of 28-plus years that TACF-NY has been supporting the chestnut restoration work at SUNY ESF.

“I have American chestnut nuts that are starting to sprout,” he says. I send these nuts out free of charge to people that are interested in starting some mother trees, so they have a tree to cross with our blight resistant tree, when it is available.”

Nichols asks that folks read this post and the previous post about chestnut restoration, this document about mother trees and this one about planting your chestnut seeds, and then let him know how many nuts you want to plant! fajknichols.75@gmail.com or call 607-263-5105

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