Maine Chapter

Our Work In Maine

The Problem

The loss of the American chestnut tree (Castanea dentata) is often cited as one of the worst ecological disasters in modern times. An estimated 4 billion chestnut trees, one in four trees in our eastern forests, were killed as a result of a fungus, the chestnut blight (Cryphonectria parasitica).  This fungus was native to Asia but was accidentally brought to New York in 1904. It quickly spread and within a few decades most American chestnuts lay dead on the ground. The species and communities that depended upon them for food and shelter were diminished in turn.

When the fungus girdles and kills the trunk of the tree, the root often survives and sprouts in the forest understory. The tree’s ability to root sprout is the only reason wild chestnuts persist in our forests today. The sprouts grow into trees but rarely mature to the point of flowering and producing seeds. Thus, the blight prevents the American chestnut from reproducing and evolving as a species. Without our intervention the chestnut is unlikely to reclaim its former territory and its outsized role in forest ecology and human culture.

Our Mission

The mission of The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) and its 16 chapters is to return the iconic American chestnut to its native range. In our attempts to restore this species, we are blazing a trail to guide future restoration efforts for other trees in trouble.

Our Approach

The goal of the TACF breeding program has been to move the gene for resistance, which occurs in the Chinese chestnut, into the American chestnut’s genome. This goal has been approached in two ways: a standard back-cross breeding program and genetic engineering.

Backcross Breeding

The Maine Chapter of TACF is one of many chapters engaged in a long-term back-cross breeding program with support from TACF’s staff and research farm in Meadowview, VA. Employing Maine wild chestnuts as mother trees, we aim to produce a blight resistant tree that is well adapted to Maine growing conditions.

We have long expected to see blight resistance work its way into the American Chestnut genome but this goal has remained elusive.  Modern gene technology recently revealed that the combination of genes that confer resistance is more complicated and harder to pass along through standard back-cross breeding. After growing and tending hundreds of thousands of young chestnut trees over two decades, we have yet to produce a reliably blight tolerant tree that retains its distinctive American features. We have, however, learned a lot about chestnut trees and identified certain trees that appear somewhat less vulnerable to severe blight infection.

Biotechnology

A transgenic approach to blight tolerance has been underway almost as long as the back-cross breeding program. One benefit of this approach is that the American chestnut genome does not become contaminated by the many extraneous Chinese chestnut genes that come with traditional breeding.

Managed by the State University of New York at Syracuse (SUNY Syracuse), transgenic research to date has been focused on moving a gene found in wheat, bananas, strawberries and many other human foods, into the American chestnut. This gene is effective at protecting plant tissues from invasion by fungi that produce oxalic acid as part of their infection process. The gene produces an enzyme that breaks down the acid. It seems to confer some resistance to the fungus that causes chestnut blight.

Tom Klak, from the University of New England (UNE) in Biddeford Maine, has devoted years to advancing this approach. Dr.Klak has developed ways to speed the growth rate of chestnut seedlings in the greenhouse to produce pollen much faster. In 2021-2023, with help from his students, TACF volunteers, and generous land owners, Tom established a transgenic research orchard in Cape Elizabeth Maine, under special permit by federal regulators, to monitor the performance of the Darling 58 transgenic chestnut under field conditions.

After careful study Dr. Klak and Dr. Han Tan from the University of Maine at Orono, reported some problems with Darling 58. Their lab and field observations, along with reports by other researchers, led to the decision by TACF in December 2023 to pull its support for deregulation of the Darling line for restoration purposes. To read more details go to https://tacf.org/darling-58-performance/

Although this is a setback for advancement of the Darling 58 tree, much has been learned along the way that holds promise for development of a new and better transgenic chestnut. The technology and tools for understanding and testing for blight resistance have advanced dramatically in recent years. These hold the promise for more efficient progress in developing a blight resistant chestnut.   

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Have you ever seen a chestnut rowing down the river? Well, now's your chance, as Florian Carle, CT Chapter Secretary, spent last fall rowing in regattas all around the Northeast in a boat decorated with our friend Charlie Chestnut!

You can read Florian's story online in JL Athletics jlathletics.com/blogs/the-launch/two-passions-on-a-single-charlie-the-rowing-chestnut

If you're a member of TACF, you'll get to read a similar story and enjoy all of the incredible photos of this chestnut rowing triumph in the winter edition of our magazine.

Thanks, Florian!
... See MoreSee Less

Have you ever seen a chestnut rowing down the river? Well, nows your chance, as Florian Carle, CT Chapter Secretary, spent last fall rowing in regattas all around the Northeast in a boat decorated with our friend Charlie Chestnut! 

You can read Florians story online in JL Athletics https://jlathletics.com/blogs/the-launch/two-passions-on-a-single-charlie-the-rowing-chestnut

If youre a member of TACF, youll get to read a similar story and enjoy all of the incredible photos of this chestnut rowing triumph in the winter edition of our magazine. 

Thanks, Florian!

2 CommentsComment on Facebook

Boy oh boy, the algorithm is spot on for me today! My dad has long supported TACF, even taking my son on a road trip there to learn about blight. (Dad, MI- son, VA) It was quite an excursion for them but my dad thought it was very important for him to learn. I have just started rowing this past year (only indoor on an erg, I have yet to make it on the water). So your story married my family's interests. Great job on both your rowing adventures as well as promoting The American Chestnut Foundation . What a great story. And the boat looks sharp!!!

We're pretty sure American chestnuts have some deep thoughts. ... See MoreSee Less

Were pretty sure American chestnuts have some deep thoughts.

Welcome to TACF Pets! We'd like to introduce you to some fabulous animals whose humans happen to work for The American Chestnut Foundation (we're known for our excellent head scratches).

This is Jazmine, otherwise known as Jaz or Jazzy J, age 14. She lives with Jamie, TACF's Southern Regional Science Coordinator, and loves to accompany Jamie on her chestnut-related work trips. She's a frequent visitor to the TACF office in Asheville, where you can usually find her in Jamie's lap.

When Jamie isn't busy giving Jaz snuggles, she's directing and supporting chapter science programs, including activities such as pollination, harvest and seed collection, seed storage and distribution, planting site selection, directing
the planting and maintenance of chestnut trees, and inoculating and selecting trees.

Keep on the lookout for the other pets of TACF!
... See MoreSee Less

Welcome to TACF Pets! Wed like to introduce you to some fabulous animals whose humans happen to work for The American Chestnut Foundation (were known for our excellent head scratches). 

This is Jazmine, otherwise known as Jaz or Jazzy J, age 14. She lives with Jamie, TACFs Southern Regional Science Coordinator, and loves to accompany Jamie on her chestnut-related work trips. Shes a frequent visitor to the TACF office in Asheville, where you can usually find her in Jamies lap. 

When Jamie isnt busy giving Jaz snuggles, shes directing and supporting chapter science programs, including activities such as pollination, harvest and seed collection, seed storage and distribution, planting site selection, directing
the planting and maintenance of chestnut trees, and inoculating and selecting trees.

Keep on the lookout for the other pets of TACF!Image attachmentImage attachment

1 CommentComment on Facebook

What I want to know is does Jazzy J like to eat chestnuts like my Bucky did

The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) is hiring! We're seeking a highly organized full-time Operations Specialist. The Operations Specialist is the face of TACF and is the first point of contact for all visitors to the national office in Asheville. They will balance a variety of responsibilities and must possess a high degree of flexibility, professional attitude, and initiative. The ideal candidate will understand a nonprofit environment and have a strong commitment to service.

Applications close at 12:00PM on March 22, 2024. Please visit the employment page for a complete job description and additional details. tacf.org/employment/
... See MoreSee Less

The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) is hiring! Were seeking a highly organized full-time Operations Specialist. The Operations Specialist is the face of TACF and is the first point of contact for all visitors to the national office in Asheville. They will balance a variety of responsibilities and must possess a high degree of flexibility, professional attitude, and initiative. The ideal candidate will understand a nonprofit environment and have a strong commitment to service.

Applications close at 12:00PM on March 22, 2024. Please visit the employment page for a complete job description and additional details. https://tacf.org/employment/

Who's up for a roadtrip? If you live in the New England region there are a couple great opportunities to connect with a state chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation this weekend!

The CT-TACF Chapter will be hosting a table at the Hartford Flower and Garden Show in Hartford, CT Feb 22-25 (tacf.org/event/tacf-at-the-hartford-flower-and-garden-show/)

And the ME-TACF Chapter will be hosting a table at the Cabin Fever Reliever in Brewer, ME on Saturday, Feb 24 (tacf.org/event/cabin-fever-reliever/).

Find more events near you on the TACF Events Calendar! tacf.org/events
... See MoreSee Less

Whos up for a roadtrip? If you live in the New England region there are a couple great opportunities to connect with a state chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation this weekend!

The CT-TACF Chapter will be hosting a table at the Hartford Flower and Garden Show in Hartford, CT Feb 22-25 (https://tacf.org/event/tacf-at-the-hartford-flower-and-garden-show/)

And the ME-TACF Chapter will be hosting a table at the Cabin Fever Reliever in Brewer, ME on Saturday, Feb 24 (https://tacf.org/event/cabin-fever-reliever/). 

Find more events near you on the TACF Events Calendar! https://tacf.org/events
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American Chestnut Foundation logo and website home link

(828) 281-0047

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National Office

50 N. Merrimon Ave
STE 115
Asheville, NC 28804
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