American Chestnuts

Scott Enebak eneba001 at
Thu Jan 13 13:55:36 EST 1994

Greetings, I am new at this bio-net stuff and was not sure how to get back 
onto the disscussion group concern the American Chestnut.  So I'll respond 
to you directly.  I have just finished doing my Ph.D. on the American 
chestnut at West Virginia University, where chestnut used to be king of the 
forest.  My research aspect was using cytoplasmic dsRNA (a virus) that has 
been found infecting the fungus responsbile for the blight.  When present 
the fungus is incapable of infecting the tree and essientially renders the 
fungus to be non-pathogenic.  A number of other researchers around the 
eastern United States are currently working on various aspects of this type 
of biocontrol, termed Hypovirulence.  This includes Dr. Sandra Anagnostakis 
of the Conn. Agri. Experim Station who did the interview on NPR mentioned 
on the discussion group.  Other researchers include Dr. Donald Nuss at 
the Roache Insititute in NJ who has transformed a strain of the fungus with 
a dsRNA virus collected from Europe.  In Europe the dsRNA associated with 
the fungus is believed to be responsbile for the almost complete recovery 
of European chestnut.  So much so, that chestnut blight is no longer 
consider a problem, other diseases are, such as ink disases.  In Michigan a 
similar hypovirulence situtation is occuring in stands of American chestnut 
that were almost completly killed by the blight.  However, in the eastern 
US this, dsRNA and hypovirulence is not working as well.  Vegetative 
compatilbity of the fungus and competition are just two theorized reasons. 
Another avenue of reserach is breeding for resistance using the Back-cross 
method employing Chinese (resistant) and American chestnut.  This work is 
long-term and not too many Universities and Forestry agencies want to 
start without some "light at the end of the tunnel".  Another source of 
research is The American Chestnut Foundation which also operates out of 
West Virginia University, 401 Brooks Hall, Morgantown, WV 304 293-3911.  
Dr. Bill MacDonald could put you in touch with the Research Farm in 
Meadowview Virginia, where the Back-cross method is currently underway.  
Dr. Fred Hebard is operating the farm and he would be able to tell you just 
where the program is in its "time-line".  The Northern Nut Growers do have 
some chestnuts, but most are Chinese crosses used for plantation and nut 
production.  I do not have their address at my computer, (they are located 
in FL).  If you need it, drop me a line back and I'll pull it out of my 
files.  If you would like any other information I would be happy to answer 
your questions concerning the blight, and the tree.

Dr. Scott Enebak
Scott A Enebak
North Central Experiment Station
1861 Hwy 169 East
Grand Rapids, MN 55744

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