New Forests

, Volume 47, Issue 2, pp 243–270 | Cite as

Establishment of American chestnuts (Castanea dentata) bred for blight (Cryphonectria parasitica) resistance: influence of breeding and nursery grading

  • Stacy L. Clark
  • Scott E. Schlarbaum
  • Arnold M. Saxton
  • Frederick V. Hebard


European and American chestnut species (Castanea) have been decimated by exotic species, most notably chestnut blight (Cryphonectria parasitica), since the early nineteenth century. Backcross breeding programs that transfer blight disease resistance from Chinese chestnut (C. mollissima) into American chestnut (C. dentata) offer promise for chestnut restoration, particularly for the American chestnut which was a keystone species in eastern North America. Nursery prescriptions and conformity to desired American chestnut traits following planting must be tested, however, before blight resistance can even be evaluated. We tested early field performance of American and Chinese chestnut and hybrid seedlings from the third backcross generation (e.g., BC3F3) in two-aged regeneration harvests on highly productive sites in the southern Appalachians, USA. We also tested a common nursery prescription of grading seedlings by size prior to planting. BC3F3 seedlings had similar 4-year survival to American chestnut seedlings, but generally had smaller stem heights and ground-line diameters (GLD). Although blight had not yet substantially challenged some sites, the BC3F3 seedlings had blight incidence similar to the Chinese chestnut which was lower than the American chestnut. Visual seedling grading affected planting shock and stem height and GLD by the end of year 4. Large size-class seedlings had more stem dieback and 5 % lower survival compared to small size-class seedlings, but larger trees exhibited the same height in year 3 as small trees in year 4. Advanced breeding material (BC3F3) was successfully established during the stand initiation phase of forest development on highly productive sites, but deviations in desired growth rate of the American chestnut was evident. Visual grading of seedlings affected establishment of breeding material, and should be considered in the restoration process.


Artificial regeneration Cryphonectria parasitica Exotic plant disease Genetic family Restoration Visual grading 



This work was partially supported by The American Chestnut Foundation Grants Program [collection Agreement Nos. 10-CO-11330134-055, 11-CO-11330134-136, 14-CO-11330134-004]; the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service; and the University of Tennessee, Tennessee Agricultural Experiment Station. The authors greatly appreciate field assistance provided by University of Tennessee (UT), Department of Forestry, Wildlife, and Fisheries research technician John Johnson. Assistance from other UT students and technicians is also greatly appreciated: Lucas Allen, David Griffin, Luke Haden, Brian Hughett, Jay Messer, Tracy Powers, Ami Sharp, and Alison Shimer. The authors would like to acknowledge Forest Service employees who provided assistance to implement and maintain this research project: John Blanton (retired), David Casey, Barbara Crane, Robert Lewis, Russ MacFarlane, Robert Makowski, Mark Miller, Jason Rodrigue, Jim Stelick, the late Don Tomzcak, and Tyler Williamson. Assistance with insect identification was provided by Albert Mayfield, Southern Research Station, USDA Forest Service and Ashley Case, University of North Carolina Asheville. Gary Griffin, American Chestnut Cooperators Foundation and emeritus Professor at Virginia Tech University, and Mike Saunders, Purdue University, as well as two anonymous reviewers provided thoughtful comments to improve this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht (outside the USA) 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stacy L. Clark
    • 1
  • Scott E. Schlarbaum
    • 2
  • Arnold M. Saxton
    • 3
  • Frederick V. Hebard
    • 4
  1. 1.Southern Research Station, Forest ServiceU.S. Department of AgricultureKnoxvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Forestry, Wildlife, and FisheriesThe University of TennesseeKnoxvilleUSA
  3. 3.Animal Science DepartmentThe University of TennesseeKnoxvilleUSA
  4. 4.The American Chestnut FoundationMeadowviewUSA

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