2018 Blight Resistance Testing
RAPID LEAF ASSAY
In spring of this year the OCF will begin an important study which will put us years ahead in our restoration efforts allowing us to quickly identify the most blight resistant trees for our breeding program.
Measuring the necrotic area at the inoculation site
The mission of the foundation is to restore blight resistant Ozark chinquapin to its historical range. For the last 10 years, we have worked toward this goal by collecting pollen from large, surviving trees and cross breeding those trees for resistance. Seeds collected from selective breeding have been planted in test plots across the tree’s native range and many are now producing seeds. We are now at the point that we need to evaluate the blight resistance of these selectively bred trees.
Traditional methods for testing blight resistance involve inoculating the stems of trees that are greater than 3 years old with active, virulent blight. The tests last several months and can either harm or kill the trees. However, the OCF has recently partnered with the American Chestnut Research and Restoration Project at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry who have pioneered new methods to evaluate resistance in transgenic chestnuts. The new method requires leaf inoculation, is non-destructive, and only takes 7-10 days for quantitative results.
This study will begin spring 2018. Trees at test plots will be selected and prioritized for testing based on lineage and overall health. Young leaves will be removed from the trees and transported back into a sterile lab space. They will then be cleaned, inoculated with the blight, and allowed to incubate. The blight fungus will cause a necrotic area to develop around the inoculation site on the leaf (see photo). After a period of 7-10 days the area of the necrosis will be measured. Leaves from American and Chinese chestnut will also be inoculated with the blight to serve as controls in the study. Chinese chestnuts are resistant to chestnut blight and inoculated leaves should show small or nondetectable necrotic areas. Whereas, American chestnuts are highly susceptible to the disease and should develop large necroses. We expect our Ozark chinquapin to fall somewhere in the middle. As the OCF’s work progresses, this study will serve as a meter to determine if our breeding projects are developing trees that are more resistant to the blight.