What's Going On
Through out the growing season there is always much to be done. Some of the work is obvious such as keeping the grass mowed, and taking care of the controlled pollinations (Described in the 'What We Do Here' Section). Some of the work is not so obvious, such as inoculating the trees with hypovirulent stains of chestnut blight.
Since most of the trees we work with are hybrids with the American species, they are not fully resistant to chestnut blight. In order to keep the trees healthy enough to live and produce nuts, they are constantly evaluated for signs of blight. If a tree is found to be infected, we will 'doctor' the tree with weakened or hypovirulent strains of blight.
An American chestnut with a blight canker. This particular tree is actually making an attempt to battle the blight by producing a ridge of callous tissue around the margins. The fungus would soon invade the callous and encircle the trunk causing death of the tree.
A strain of chestnut blight that is hypovirulent, meaning that the fungus is infected with a virus. Hypovirulent strains are weak enough that the tree can now heal and continue to grow and produce nuts and pollen. Thus the American chestnut genes can get passed onto future generations.
The procedure gets real high tech at this point, as we utilize the hammer and leather punch. This technique was taught to me by Dr. William MacDonald and Mark Double of West Virginia University and is very effective. Pieces of healthy bark are removed with the leather punch around the canker margins.
Blight canker after removal of bark with leather punch.
A completed canker treatment. Masking tape is placed over each piece of blight inoculum to prevent it from drying out. If this is succesful, the virus from the hypovirulent strain will infect the normal blight canker allowing the tree to heal. The dead stem protruding from the canker was removed.
My son David being forced to pose with the tree. He has been a big help in the orchard.
David treating another tree in the orchard. This one is an American - Chinese hybrid.