Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 14


Scores of tiny American
chestnut seedlings that grow in
a field in the upstate New York
countryside could be the vanguard
in the restoration of what was once
the most dominant tree in the
eastern forests.
The young trees carry one
gene, added by scientists to the
38,000 genes that occur naturally
in American chestnuts, that makes
them capable of withstanding the
invasive blight that wiped out billions
of their ancestors a century ago.
"They will be the basis of
the trees we will eventually give
out to the public," says William
Powell, a professor at the College
of Environmental Science and
Forestry (ESF) in Syracuse, New
York. "And they'll be the basis
for the trees we will use for
demonstration and research for
the next 100 years."
Powell and his team are poised
to seek regulatory approval
from the federal government to
distribute the trees publicly. That
will involve review by the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency,
the U.S. Department of Agriculture,
and the Food and Drug
Administration. Although regulatory
approval has been sought, and
obtained, for many agricultural
crops, this is the first time such
approval will be considered for a
threatened plant that is intended
to be reintroduced into its natural
environment. Powell expects the
process to take two to four years.

14 WOODLAND * Fall 2017

paving the
way for all the
other trees that are
affected by invasive
species: ash, elm, hemlock
and walnut among them,"
he says. "We are the first to ask
for approval for a genetically
engineered wild tree, the first to go
through the regulatory process."
Powell has worked on
restoration of the iconic tree
for more than 27 years. He and
his research partner, Charles
Maynard, discovered during years
of painstaking tests that using
biotechnology to add one gene
derived from wheat makes the
American chestnut blight resistant.
Restoring them to the eastern
forests would have a significant
positive ecological impact. "It
would affect a lot of wildlife - from
bees to bears," Powell says.
"Animals would feed on the nut
mast and some aquatic insects
actually prefer to feed on the
leaves of American chestnut trees,
rather than the oaks that have
taken their place."
One hundred transgenic trees
have been planted in a two-acre
"seed orchard" where they are
monitored while they grow large
enough to produce pollen. When

that happens, the pollen will be
used to fertilize the flowers from
wild-type "mother trees" to help
rescue the surviving genetic
diversity. The offspring will produce
nuts, half of which will inherit the
blight-resistance gene.
Powell says that although
crossing the resistant trees with
wild-type trees will take longer
to produce a quantity of blightresistant nuts, the process will
increase the genetic diversity
and local adaptation of the new
trees and make the species more
vigorous in the years to come.
"We want to do everything we
can to make it easier for them to
survive," Powell says. "That's OK.
We're in this for the long haul. We
don't want a monoculture. This is


Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Woodlands - Fall 2017

Tools and Resources
Forests and Families
A Legacy to Keep
From Forests to Fermentation
Feathering a Forested Nest
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - intro
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - cover1
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - cover2
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 3
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - Overstory
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 5
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 6
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 7
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 8
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 9
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 10
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 11
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 12
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 13
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 14
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 15
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 16
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 17
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - Tools and Resources
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 19
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - Forests and Families
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 21
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 22
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 23
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - A Legacy to Keep
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 25
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 26
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 27
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 28
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 29
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - From Forests to Fermentation
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 31
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 32
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 33
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - Feathering a Forested Nest
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 35
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 36
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 37
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - 38
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - cover3
Woodlands - Fall 2017 - cover4