Tag Archives: Chestnut

TACF Annual Meeting 2015 with Schatz Tree Genetics Colloquium

The American Chestnut Foundation and Schatz Tree Genetics Colloquium present Integrating Genomics Tools in American Chestnut Restoration

Asheville, NC The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) in collaboration with the Schatz Tree Genetics Colloquium presents Integrating Genomics Tools in American Chestnut Restoration on October 23-24, 2015 at the Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel in State College, PA. The event coincides with TACFs 2015 Annual Fall Meeting.

This unique 2-day workshop will feature scientists from around the world presenting research related to elements of chestnut genomics. Topics include genome sequencing, genetic mapping, marker-assisted selection techniques, and more.

Many hands-on learning opportunities are included such as DNA extraction in the lab and a chestnut genome sequencing workshop with the scientists who actually did the sequencing. There will also be a field trip to the Penn State Arboretums BC3F2 seed orchard to observe variation in form and resistance within the advanced chestnut generation families.

During a Q&A forum, workshop participants are encouraged to ask genetics-based questions of leading experts to learn more about American chestnut research in the fields of genomics and molecular genetics.

Dinner banquets and keynote addresses are scheduled for Friday and Saturday evenings. Speakers include Dr. Angus Dawe of New Mexico State University, Dr. Ron Sederoff of NC State University and Dr. Antoine Kremer of the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA). Please refer to the attachment to read the complete list of event speakers and presentation topics.

Registration fees for this event are minimal:  2-Day Student Pass = $35.00; 2-Day Adult Pass = $99.00; Daily passes also available.  Click here for event registration and program information.

About The American Chestnut Foundation
Once the mighty giants of the eastern forest, American chestnuts stood up to 100 feet tall, and numbered in the billions. From Maine to Georgia, the American chestnut was a vital part of the eastern forest, provided abundant food for wildlife, and was an essential component of the economy. In the beginning of the 20th century the fungal pathogen responsible for chestnut blight, accidentally imported from Asia, spread rapidly through the eastern forests. By 1950 the fungus had eliminated the American chestnut as a mature forest tree.

In 1983, a committed group of scientists decided to do something about this ecological disaster while the species could still be saved. They formed TACF to initiate a complex breeding program to transfer genes containing disease resistance from Asian chestnut species to American chestnut. In just 20 years, these talented scientists and volunteers began to produce the first generation of trees that are 96% American chestnut but contain Asiatic genes for blight resistance. Now supported by more than 5,000 members and hundreds of volunteers in 23 states, the organization is planting and testing offspring of those trees as it continues to build and improve its breeding population. With the aid of many partner organizations, TACF is leading the restoration of an iconic species once on the brink of extinction.

The American Chestnut Foundation is a non-profit conservation organization headquartered in Asheville, NC, with 3 regional offices located in Charlottesville, VA, So. Burlington, VT, and State College, PA. The organizations research farm in Meadowview, VA has more than 50,000 trees planted in various stages of development.  For more information on TACF and its work, contact TACF Director of Communications Ruth Goodridge at 828-281-0047, email: ruth.goodridge@acf.org. Please visit us online at: www.acf.org or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/americanchestnut and Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/chestnu! t1904.

About the Schatz Tree Genetics Colloquium
Dr. Louis Schatz endowed the Schatz Center for Tree Molecular Genetics in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management at Pennsylvania State University in 1998. As part of this generous endowment, the Schatz Tree Genetics Colloquium is held every two years to provide a forum for tree genetics researchers and practitioners from around the world to review the state of the science in advanced tree genetics, propose the most promising avenues of future research, and consider joint research programs and agendas for funding by industrial, government and private sources.

The Schatz Center encompasses app. 2200 square feet of research space and 600 square feet of office space in the new Forest Resources Building.  The Schatz Center is composed of a Molecular Genetics Lab, a Quantitative Genetics Lab, a microscopy room, a tissue culture room, and equipment rooms for freezers, servers, autoclave and dishwasher.  The Schatz Center is well equipped for high throughput molecular genetics and genomics, including genetic mapping, genetic diversity, analysis of gene expression, and next generation sequencing of transcriptomes and bacterial, fungal and plant genomes.  To learn about projects underway in the Schatz Center, please visit the Schatz Center’s current projects page, under Research.

For more information contact:
Ruth Goodridge
Director of Communications
The American Chestnut Foundation
(828) 281-0047

American Chestnut: A test case for genetic engineering? – Leila Pinchot / Forest Guild

Leila Pinchot wrote an excellent article on the use of advanced biotechnologies to help restore the American chestnut for the Forest Guild’s publication, Forest Wisdom. This article discusses the efforts of the Forest Health Initiative to test the potential of using biotechnologies to help solve forest health problems:

What made the FHI unique was that, from the very beginning, the group understood the importance of involving multiple stakeholders through the entire process of developing the GE chestnut – it couldnt just be industry biotechnicians working behind closed doors. To encourage a productive conversation about the potential uses, threats and benefits of this technology, a transparent conversation is absolutely imperative.

The IFB’s Responsible Use: Biotech Tree Principles and the need for these best management practices are also discussed:

Another partner at the table was the Institute of Forest Biosciences (IFB), a non-profit formed in 2005, when forest biotechnology research was rapidly expanding, to the dismay of a dubious public (it was around this time that Europeans were fervently rejecting GE food crops). IFB was established in order to promote a dialogue among all stakeholders on the responsible use of forest biotechnology. Per Susan McCord, IFBs Ex ecutive Director, We needed an organization to bridge research and industry, to look at how to responsibly bring on new the technology. Federal agencies regulate the development and testing of transgenic plants, including trees, however the IFBs new board wanted to increase the transparency of the development of transgenic trees. This was based on the understanding that keeping the public in the dark would only increase mistrust of the technology. The IFBs recently released Responsible Use Biotech Tree Principles offer forest biotechnicians a set of voluntary guidelines, similar to Best Management Practices, for the responsible development, testing, and out-planting of transgenic trees. When asked what the main difference between the status quo process of the development of GE trees and the Responsible Use principles, IFBs President, Adam Costanza, said Transparency. We need researchers and industry to communicate with stakeholders. Communicate early, and often.

The article ends with a compelling question to the reader:

We are in a geologic era, called the Anthropocene, defined by the action of humans, as opposed to naturally occurring forces. As articulated by the title of Bill McKibbons 1989 book, in some ways we are experiencing The End of Nature, in a world where ecosystems can no longer be thought of as independent of humans. Forest management in the anthropocene is very complex, as it requires that we make management decisions today that may or may not reflect the ecological conditions of the future. It is in this context, in which we may lose American chestnut, eastern hemlock, American beech, butternut, black walnut, Port-orford cedar, flowering dogwood, the elms and the ashes; all species threatened with functional extinction and all candidates for protection or restoration via GE techniques, that we ask what tools are appropriate for forest management in the Anthropocene. Should we count on traditional breeding, should we wait for the hope of natural recovery, or do we need every tool to bring back this keystone species to hold together threatened forests?

This article is insightful and well worth the read.

Online Source: http://www.forestguild.org/publications/forest_wisdom/FW21_Pinchot.pdf | Local archived copy

William A. Powell named Forest Biotechnologist of the Year

Cary, N.C. Dr. William A. Powell, a professor and director of the Council on Biotechnology in Forestry at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) in Syracuse, N.Y., has been named 2013 Forest Biotechnologist of the Year by the Institute of Forest Biosciences (IFB).

His peers within the Forest Biosciences Partnership, an international group of forestry and biotechnology professionals, selected Powell as the fifth scientist to win this award, which recognizes the forest biotechnologist who best exemplifies responsible uses of forest biotechnology and actively promotes science, dialogue and stewardship through his or her work.

According to his peers, Powell was nominated because of his pioneering work, leadership and outreach in the use of biotechnology to restore one of the most iconic forest trees, the American chestnut.

Lori Knowles, chair of the board at IFB, said, Bill’s willingness to communicate about his work, engage with the public, and collaborate with colleagues from other disciplines is both commendable and visionary.  Bill embodies the principles of science, dialogue and stewardship on which the IFB is built, and thus he is an ideal recipient of this year’s Forest Biotechnologist of the Year award.

Powell has worked on this topic during and since his Ph.D. research, contributing a great deal of basic science as well as technology development. The basic science has included insights into mechanisms of pathogenesis, including studying the roles of virus-associates of the chestnut fungus, designing anti-microbial peptides and identifying pathogen resistance-enhancing genes. Technology advances have included helping development of new transformation methods, rapid screening approaches for assessing resistance, and means to accelerate flowering to advance research and breeding.  In addition to American chestnut, Powell has advanced research on American elm and hybrid poplar.  His work has been widely cited, with more than 200 citations from 2007 to 2011.  Earlier this year, Powell presented at the National Geographic sponsored TEDxDeextinction conference.

Steve Strauss, a professor with the Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society at Oregon State University, said, “Bill’s program has made several major advances in technology to produce and accelerate the development of blight-resistant chestnut.  He also has worked hard to inform the public about his work and its rationale.  He exemplifies what this award is intended to recognize.”

As director of the Council for Forest Biosciences at ESF, Powell uses this platform to actively promote outreach and transparency.  He has created field days, engaged hundreds of students from high school to graduate levels in fieldwork or through undergraduate teaching, planted transgenic trees in public demonstration plots, such as the New York Botanical Garden, and takes steps to involve civic leaders.

Like all the nominees, Bill has accomplished a lot over his career. I think Bills work with the Forest Health Initiative in finding native genes resistant to the chestnut blight, and his ability to make those complex techniques easy to understand for the general public are what set him apart this year said Adam Costanza, president of the Institute of Forest Biosciences.

Powell earned his doctorate in biology from Utah State University and his bachelors degree in biology from Salisbury State University of Maryland. During his tenure at ESF, he has published 40 peer-reviewed articles and seven book chapters.

Nature Article: The Chestnut Resurrection

Nature.com – October 3, 2010

Helen Thompson wrote about some of the ongoing efforts to restore the American chestnut tree that has been extirpated by an invasive fungus brought to the U.S. from Asia over a century ago. The Forest Health Initiative (FHI) was discussed for exploring advanced biotechnology approaches to restore this iconic and ecologically important species.

A number of scientists involved in the FHI, Steering Committee members, and the IFB were interviewed for this article. Please note, however, that the FHI is not a stand-along organization.


Researchers hope to grow sturdy chestnut tree

Learn more about the Forest Health Initiative at foresthealthinitiative.org

The American chestnut tree was among the tall stalwarts of the Appalachian forest for centuries. Its rot-resistant wood was used in barns, railroad ties and telephone poles; its nuts fed people, farm animals and wildlife; its canopy offered shade and mopped up a growing country’s pollution.

Giant chestnut trees were once abundant in the Southeast, and an economic lifesaver in some Western North Carolina communities. Workers sit atop chestnut logs waiting for a logging train in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Accounting for one out of every four hardwood trees in its Maine-to-Alabama range, it was a king of the forest: fast-growing, straight-grained and, in some areas, an economic lifesaver.

“The people in Canton, N.C., never knew the Depression. They were making money hand over fist,” says Paul Sisco, president of the Carolinas chapter of the Asheville-based American Chestnut Foundation.

They worked for Champion Paper & Fiber Co., which was chewing up chestnut and spitting out not only pulp for paper but globally marketed tannic acid for tanning leather.

But by the mid-1940s, scarcely a mature tree was left standing: A blight that arrived from Asia about 1900 took a disastrous toll. It attacked through cracks in bark until it girdled a tree with a ring nutrients could not penetrate. Roots remained, continuing to produce young trees that also were doomed.

The China option

The last big trees had hardly fallen before scientists and chestnut-loving lay people started looking to create a chestnut tree that could withstand blight. In the years since, various groups have planted more than a half-million experimental trees, usually mixing stock from the doomed young trees with that of blight-resistant foreign trees.

Now, two groups think they’re close to success. They are the traditional cross-breeders of TACF, who in 2009 started planting their most advanced American-Chinese crosses in forests to propagate on their own, and biotechnologists, who hope that a genetically engineered Chinese-American seedling will prove its resistance by 2013.

Louis Acker, a volunteer American Chestnut Foundation orchardist, prepares a tree for cross-pollination at his Ashe County sheep farm. Cross-breeding and genetics are being used to bring the chestnut back to forests in the Southeast.

Ornamental Chinese trees are short, bushy and slow-growing, but have resistance built up over centuries of coexisting with blight. TACF’s goal was to create a tree with 94 percent commercially valuable American characteristics and a minimum of Chinese traits.

Biotechnologists hope more is at stake than just recovering a piece of our ecological past

By providing a proving ground for the use of genetic engineering against one enemy of the forest, they say, the chestnut may show the way toward subduing others, such as the woolly adelgid now attacking Carolina hemlocks.

The current biotech effort, known as the Forest Health Initiative, brings together scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Clemson University, the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry, the University of Georgia, and Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Ronald Sederoff, co-director of N.C. State University’s Forest Biosciences Group, is on the advisory committee. It’s underwritten by nearly $6 million from Duke Energy, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities.

It builds on gene mapping done in American and Chinese chestnuts by scientists from Penn State, NCSU, Clemson, the Connecticut Agricultural Research Station, TACF and SUNY-ESF.

Those advocating both approaches are encouraged by what’s happened so far.

The culmination of 25 years of TACF cross-breeding – 4,500 “final generation” trees – are now growing in national forests in Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee.

As for the biotech advocates, “There are a lot of breakthroughs that we’ve gone through,” says SUNY’s Dr. William Powell. “Just the ability to put genes in a tree took a long, long time.”

Yet neither group is ready to say it has found the Holy Grail.

“You can only declare continued optimism rather than victory at least for another 50 years or so,” says Dr. Fred Hebard, staff pathologist for TACF’s research station in Meadowview, Va. “When those things are 100 feet tall, you can definitely declare victory.”

And biotech researcher Dr. Scott Merkle of the University of Georgia says of the Chinese genes that he hopes turn out to be the right ones: “We call them ‘candidate genes’ because we don’t really know.”

By 2013, the biotechnologists expect some answers. American chestnut seedlings implanted with a Chinese gene are already in the field. A couple of years from now, they’ll be inoculated with blight to test their resistance. Others, bearing some 20 other genes that researchers have isolated, are in the pipeline for planting.

Powell thinks at least three genes are involved in resistance, and “We think we can find the resistant genes within the first 30 that we test.” Clemson and Penn State researchers studying the 45,000 or so Chinese genes paved the way by narrowing the likely ones to 100 or so.

“Once we have a tree that we know is resistant, we will cross it with as many different wild parents as possible to increase diversity,” Powell says.

TACF’s diversity search

The creation of TACF’s national forest trees is being replicated on farms across the chestnut’s former range, including 40 in North Carolina, as volunteer orchardists and researchers work to come up with trees suited to a variety of growing climates. The organization has 6,000 members in 20 states.

The trees in the national forests are too young to be massively attacked by blight, but Stacy Clark, who tends them for the U.S. Forest Service, says they show little sign of it so far and are generally doing well. Some are 12 feet tall.

But last year, a new problem showed up – one Clark hopes was brought in inadvertently from the nursery. It’s Phythopthora cinnamomi, a root rot that thrives in poorly drained soil and warm climates. It’s also an enemy of citrus, shortleaf pine, and even Fraser fir in some areas.

In Seneca, S.C., a retired orthopedic surgeon who has been growing TACF trees for years is fighting the new problem. Except that Dr. Joe James calls it a very old problem, one responsible for the chestnut’s being considered a mountain tree.

His reading – prompted by the fact that all the chestnuts he planted on flat land promptly died – told him that chestnuts’ range once included the Carolinas Piedmont. Their presence near Atlanta has been documented, and remnants of a chestnut forest remain on a Crowders Mountain ridge.

The thinking is that the root rot advanced through warm, wet areas, chasing the chestnuts into mountain areas where freezing temperatures could penetrate thin soil and prevent the rot from taking hold.

Thinking that Chinese trees, which historically coexisted with Phythopthora as well as blight, might carry resistance to both, James planted 12,000 Chinese-American seedlings. Some 4.5 percent proved resistant to root-rot.

James gave his results to FHI, which used them to map for resistant genes, one of which is being put into seedlings due for field-testing in 2013.

No one knows whether crossbreeding or biotech ultimately will prevail as the favored weapon against the enemies of the chestnut. Success could come even from a combination of the two approaches, James says.

“When (geneticists) get the maps worked out thoroughly, then we can start selecting trees based on their genetic analysis. That would speed up our breeding program tremendously,” he says. “We’re going to join hands and cross the finish line together.”

Source: http://www.newsobserver.com/2011/10/17/1571619/new-hope-for-a-vanished-giant.html

Learn more about the Forest Health Initiative at foresthealthinitiative.org