The American Chestnut Research & Restoration Project at ESF
The mission of the American Chestnut Research and Restoration Project at SUNY ESF is to conduct basic and applied research that will lead to the development of a blight-resistant American chestnut tree (Castanea dentata). Our goal is to reintroduce a population of these resistant trees back into forest ecosystems of the eastern United States.
The project has evolved from basic research into a multifaceted endeavor which includes such areas as the identification of plant pathogen resistance-enhancing genes, the development of American chestnut tissue culture, field testing chestnut trees from tissue culture, public participation through the identification of rare remnant survival chestnut trees, collection and exchange of viable nuts and the establishment of large restoration plantations throughout New York State.
Ongoing activities include basic research on various single and pyramided resistance-enhancing gene designs, identification of genes associated with Asian chestnut resistance, chestnut tissue culture and gene transfer into American chestnut trees, determination of the genetic diversity in surviving remnant chestnut populations, greenhouse and field testing of putative resistant transgenic trees, the collection of rare chestnut germplasm, and the establishment of germplasm archives throughout New York.
The concepts, techniques, and gene cassettes we are developing for American chestnut will also have broad applicability in managing diseases affecting the productivity of 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 (which is becoming a key biomass tree species).
Do you have a question or would you like to know more about the American Chestnut Project? Are you interested in being added to our notification list to receive news about the regulatory status of our trees?
Do you represent an organization (arboretum, botanical garden, educational or research institution, land managing organization, etc.) that is interested in working with us?
Adriana Del Grosso
American Chestnut Project
Chestnut Restoration and Genetic Engineering
Our lab has produced a blight-tolerant American chestnut using genetic engineering. We call this variety Darling 58. These trees show enhanced resilience against the chestnut blight thanks to a common gene that was inserted into their genome. We hope that these trees can be returned to their historic native range, so that they can benefit people and our local ecosystem once again.
Our Darling 58 chestnuts are currently going through the federal regulatory review process that all genetically modified organisms go through before they can be released. We expect a final decision from these agencies by August 2023. We will begin work soon after to scale-up our capacity to produce and distribute our trees. Much of this work will be done in collaboration with The American Chestnut Foundation.