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2012 Chestnut Summit

In 2012, in association with the US Forest Service, TACF's Annual Meeting was all-inclusive for many elements of American chestnut history, research, and applied ecology.

OPENING GENERAL SESSION
The American Chestnut – Genetic, Ecological and Strategic Aspects of Resistance and Restoration - Dr. Robert L. Doudrick, Director, USDA Forest Service, Southern Research Station
This talk will address the genetics and strategy of building resistance into an iconic tree species. Dr. Doudrick will address the ecological aspects of establishing a native in a “non-native” environment including thriving in an occupied niche, invasive plants, pests and pathogens and climate change. He will touch on the strategic and logistical aspects of restoration including the outlook for funding of restoration efforts and will discuss the critical research and restoration needs of the future and socioeconomic factors that affect our ability to restore and manage the American chestnut tree.

Chestnut Breeding and Restoration: Elements of Success - Dr. Kim Steiner, Professor of Forest Biology, Director of The Arboretum at Penn State, Penn State University
Drawing on four decades of experience in the field of forest tree breeding, and on the history of nearly a century of work battling chestnut blight, Dr. Steiner will discuss the pitfalls of grand projects like that of American chestnut restoration and the opportunities for the project’s success.


SATURDAY KEYNOTE
Nature on the Move – How Important Are We? - Dr. Patrick McMillan, Director, Campbell Museum of Natural History at Clemson University
One of the most difficult lessons for a naturalist to learn is that change is a constant in nature. Man has always been an integral part of nature and change. The truth is we are the most significant force of change on the planet. The fate of the American chestnut is but one example of how our choices have resulted in profound impacts on our world. From the Piedmont forests to the mysterious shell rings of the Carolina coast our actions can be seen hundreds, indeed thousands of years later. Join Patrick for a tour across the continent and into the past for a look at how man’s hand is visible across the globe and how simple choices we can all make can change the course of the world.

 

TRACK 1 - CHESTNUT GENETICS AND DISEASES
Beyond Hybrid Backcross Breeding: The Intersection of TACF’s Breeding Program with Conventional Forest Tree Improvement, Varietal Forestry, and Transgenics - Dr. Scott Merkle, Professor of Forest Biology, University of Georgia
Now that the TACF breeding program is at its B3F3 goal, it may be time to look at where some aspects of commercial tree improvement, varietal forestry and even transgenics can make substantial contributions to the goals of TACF. In particular, applying the varietal approach to TACF B3F3 chestnuts, either via rooted cuttings or in vitro techniques, such as micropropagation or somatic embryogenesis, could both enhance restoration efforts and induce interest in landowners in growing chestnuts, by making elite chestnut material available to them for commercial timber or nut production.

Hypovirulence of Cryphonectria parasitica, the Fungus that Causes Chestnut Blight Disease - Dr. Bradley I. Hillman, Professor of Plant Biology and Pathology, Rutgers University
In the 1950’s, debilitated strains of Cryphonectria parasitica called “hypovirulent” were first used to help control the spread of the fungus in European chestnut. Attempts in the U.S. were less successful. This presentation will review the history of the use of hypovirulence as a biological control of the fungus, and will look at how the recently completed genome sequence of the fungus has opened the door to further comparative studies on fungal response to virus infection.

Phytophthora cinnamomi and the American Chestnut: A Chance Encounter with Unfortunate Consequences! - Dr. Steven N. Jeffers, Professor and Extension Specialist, Clemson University
The presentation will focus on the specific interaction between Phytophthora cinnamomi and the American chestnut here in the southeastern USA. Included will be an overview of the genus Phytophthora: its historical background, general biology and roles as a plant pathogen of worldwide importance.


TRACK 2: CHESTNUT ECOLOGY AND RESTORATION
Opportunities for Public-facing Institutions to Contribute Research and Engage People in Reviving Our Lost Legacy - Dr. Nicole Cavender, Vice President of Science and Conservation, The Morton Arboretum
Today, the expanded mission of many botanic gardens, arboreta and zoological centers includes taking proactive roles in protection, conservation and restoration. These facilities can provide many services and resources that advance plant-based research and engage the public. This presentation will offer a closer look at these activities and opportunities as they relate to the plight of the American chestnut.

How Can We Restore Chestnut: Forest Management Approaches to Long-term Restoration - Dr. Stacy Clark, Research Forester, USDA Forest Service, Southern Research Station
The USDA Forest Service and other partners have implemented several research plantings on the National Forests using potentially blight-resistant material available from The American Chestnut Foundation. Early results indicate these chestnuts are competitive with native plant species, and behave similarly to pure American chestnut in growth and survival. Successful restoration will require management or control of native fauna (deer, bear) and flora (seedling sprouts), and will also require attention to a host of non-native pests and pathogens other than blight (root rot disease, insects).

American Chestnut and Eastern Forest Wildlife Communities - Dr. William M. Healy, Certified Wildlife Biologist, USDA Forest Service (retired)
The eastern deciduous forest that developed after the last glaciation was characterized by widespread species, including oaks, maples, beech, basswood, hickories, ash, elm, birch, yellow poplar, and chestnut. The seeds and nuts from these trees provided the most abundant and nutritious food source and the forests supported a large and diverse wildlife community. American chestnut played a unique role because of its flowering characteristics, productivity, and lack of hard shell. During the last century, chestnut and other foundation tree species have been lost from this forest. Despite these changes, tree seeds and nuts are still the most important fall and winter food for forest wildlife whose populations rise and fall with the annual tree seed crop. The restoration of American chestnut is an important step in the ecological restoration of the eastern deciduous forest.

Exploring the “Fit” Between Genes and the Environment - Dr. Paul G. Schaberg, USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station and the University of Vermont Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources
There are multiple existing and emerging factors that could complicate the goal of robust restoration across the American chestnut’s entire range. One way of assessing the interplay of genetics and management is in a “common garden” – where many genetic sources are planted together to see how they perform under similar environmental (and management) conditions. This talk will present data on the influence of genetics and silvicultural treatment on the performance of American chestnut grown in a common garden in Vermont. Emphasis will be placed on
understanding the “fit” between genetic sources and the local environment now and in the face of changing climates.


TRACK 3 - CULTURE AND HISTORY OF CHESTNUTS
The Chestnut Trade in Southwestern Virginia - Dr. Ralph H. Lutts, Faculty Member, Goddard College
A close look at the brisk trade in American chestnuts in southwestern Virginia during the early decades of the twentieth century reveals some surprises. The size of local chestnut economies varied, often related to the size of the chestnut crop, the prosperity of county residents, and the extent of a county’s transportation system. Although chestnuts were usually gathered as a wild crop, some people managed their trees as personal orchards. In rare instances, conflicts over chestnuts even led to murder.

Finding Chestnuts in North American History - Dr. Donald Edward Davis, Governmental Affairs Representative, TACF and Fulbright Scholar, Vasyl Stefanyk Precarpathian University, Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine
This presentation will examine the environmental history of the American chestnut over the past 20,000 years. By examining fossil pollen records, archaeological studies, and original archival documents, the author provides new–and perhaps groundbreaking–information about the role of the American chestnut in shaping North American history and culture.

Chestnuts—What Was Lost May Come Again - Doug Gillis, Carolinas Chapter
The American chestnut was prized first by Native Americans. Early explorers of North America “discovered” chestnuts growing in eastern America. Pioneers used the American chestnut for all that it was worth. Then, due to chestnut blight, all that was lost but for our memories. Restoration of the American chestnut raises our spirits, and we realize what was lost may come again.


TRACK 4 – PRACTICAL SKILLS
Introduction to Planting and Growing Chestnuts - Kendra Gurney, New England Regional Science Coordinator, The American Chestnut Foundation
Learn about site selection, planting, and common pitfalls for successfully growing American chestnuts.

Introduction to Wood Identification - Sara Fitzsimmons, Northern Central Regional Science Coordinator, The American Chestnut Foundation
This workshop covers the basics necessary to begin identifying wood samples, especially that of chestnut and those most often mistaken for chestnut. Presentation developed by Lee Stover, retired instructor of Wood Products from Penn State University.

Introduction to Chestnut Pests and Disease - Tom Saielli, Southeast Regional Science Coordinator, The American Chestnut Foundation
Learn about common greenhouse and field pests and diseases of chestnuts and how to treat