Productive Collaboration Continues Between PA/NJ Chapter and PSU

Published February 28, 2022

In late January, chapter volunteers met at Pennsylvania State University’s Forest Resources Laboratory complex to sow the 2021 crop of seed, some of which were collected in the backcross orchards on the grounds of the Penn State Arboretum. Volunteers were directed by Orchard Manager Steve Hoy (Hoy) and assisted by TACF Director of Restoration Sara Fitzsimmons. Altogether 4,200 pots have been planted. The seed range includes wild-type Americans, advanced backcross, Darling 58 transgenic (oxo resistance), transgenic hybrids (stacked resistance), pure Chinese controls, and a few chinquapins collected from a recently closed WV state nursery.

With this incredible range of genetic diversity on hand, Hoy’s first priority was the meticulous tracking and labeling of nuts. Fortunately, his new label maker got a real workout turning a seemingly impossible task into a manageable solution!

That is just one of the exciting accomplishments at the PSU facility. On Thursday, March 3, and Friday, March 4, volunteers overseen by staff will assay 27,000 open pollinated nuts for the presence of oxalic oxidase activity. Participation is not limited to residents of PA & NJ. If you’re willing to lend a hand, we will be meeting at University Park campus. For directions, use this address: Forest Resources Laboratory, Hastings Rd, State College, PA 16801.

Also underway in the greenhouse is the testing of one micro-irrigation system and the development of a second. Between the two, we hope to identify a system that will enable the deployment of a greenhouse wide micro-irrigation system.

Within weeks we will improve the air circulation to produce sturdier stems. With the automation of four air movers cycling in 15-minute intervals, we hope to replicate the effect of seedlings swaying in light winds as experienced when grown outdoors. It is widely agreed that this natural movement is required to stimulate growth of cells that yield strong, straight stems in seedlings.

To wrap up spring 2022’s activities, a PSU grant is in hand to purchase necessary lamps to create a high intensity light environment that will force chestnuts selected for their genetic material to produce pollen within several months of germination. These seedlings are waiting their turn as they over-winter on site in a shade house. The select pollen some of these seedlings will be used (hopefully this summer) to hand pollinate field grown chestnuts selected for their specific genetic material. Their offspring will contribute to the next generation of “stacked resistance” hybrids.

As you read in this brief update, it is a very exciting time to be engaged with the PA/NJ Chapter and our Land Grant University Partner, the Pennsylvania State University.


Chestnut seedlings at the PSU greenhouse, photo courtesy of Steve Hoy

Steve Johnstonbaugh, PA/NJ Chapter Board Member