The American Chestnut Research & Restoration Project at ESF
The mission of the American Chestnut Research and Restoration Project at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) is to conduct basic and applied research that will lead to the development of a blight-tolerant American chestnut tree (Castanea dentata). Our goal is to reintroduce a population of these tolerant trees back into forest ecosystems of the eastern United States.
The American Chestnut Project has evolved from basic research into a multifaceted endeavor, including identifying plant pathogen tolerance-enhancing genes, developing American chestnut tissue culture, field testing chestnut trees, encouraging public participation through the identification of rare remnant surviving chestnut trees, collecting and exchanging viable nuts, and establishing large restoration plantations throughout New York State.
Ongoing activities include basic research on various single and pyramided tolerant-enhancing gene designs, identifying genes associated with Asian chestnut tolerance, chestnut tissue culture and gene transfer into American chestnut trees, determining genetic diversity in surviving remnant chestnut populations, greenhouse and field testing of putative resistant transgenic trees, collecting rare chestnut germplasm, and establishing germplasm archives throughout New York.
The concepts, techniques, and gene cassettes we develop for the American chestnut will have broad applications in managing diseases affecting other important tree species such as Dutch-elm disease and elm yellows (which devastated another American heritage tree, the American elm, Ulmus americana) and Septoria leaf spot and canker disease of hybrid poplar, Populus sp. (which is becoming a key biomass tree species).
Darling 58 and Regulatory Status
Our project has produced an American chestnut variety with enhanced blight tolerance using genetic engineering. This variety, Darling 58, shows enhanced tolerance to chestnut blight thanks to a common gene that was inserted into its genome. We hope to return these trees to their historic native range, to benefit people and local ecosystems once again.
Darling 58 chestnuts are currently going through the federal regulatory review process that genetically modified organisms go through before they can be released. In the meantime, we are working to scale-up our capacity to produce and distribute trees once we have regulatory approval. Much of this work is being done in collaboration with The American Chestnut.
You can find updates on the regulatory status of Darling 58 on our Regulatory Status page.
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