On March 4, 2022 Caleb Kell, who works on chestnut breeding at Purdue’s Hardwood Tree Improvement and Regeneration Center, pulled and packaged American chestnut seedlings at the Indiana DNR state tree nursery at Vallonia Indiana. These robust seedlings are one year old. Caleb was assisted by chapter volunteer Sharon Kotnik as well as workers from the nursery.
Many of these seedlings will be used as rootstock. The stem will be cut off a short way above the roots and scion wood will be grafted onto the rootstock. Scion wood is a shoot or twig cut from the upper branches of an existing full grown tree, in this case a long term surviving American chestnut tree.
Often grafting is the only way an old chestnut found in the forest can be preserved. Chestnut trees that are still alive after many years of growing in the wild and surviving the blight are a very valuable genetic resource and their genetics or “germplasm” needs to be preserved for breeding ever more blight resistant chestnuts. The grafted trees are grown in our germplasm conservation orchard, GCO. The pollen and nuts from our GCOs are used to breed new backcross chestnuts and also sent to locations where TACF is doing research on producing transgenic chestnut trees using the oxalate oxidase gene.