We are working to establish a viable seed base through research and cross-pollination of blight resistant trees. Our efforts involve:
- Locating blight resistant trees
- Distributing resistant seed for growing
- Manual cross-pollination
- DNA analysis to confirm pure native strands
- Establishing research farms
- Increasing visibility through public outreach and education
This restoration work is a collaborative effort involving University researchers, student volunteers, local, State, and Federal cooperators, as well as outdoors-men and women participating in field research and education.
When Steve Bost established The Ozark Chinquapin Foundation in 2008, his natural selection breeding methods to breed Ozark chinquapin trees that would be resistant to the chestnut blight disease, the prospect seemed the hopeful imaginings of dedicated few. However, in the 10 or so years since then, a multi-state effort involving thousands of volunteers, breeding experiments, many universities, and several government and private institutions has culminated in the establishment of several planting sites plots and test orchards in Missouri and Arkansas containing hundreds of Ozark chinquapin trees with levels of blight resistance.
As of today, none of the over 300 trees on our test plots (all about 3-8 yrs old) have shown any signs of the blight. These progeny have been the parents of seeds used for reforestation efforts/trials and distribution. The OCF has mailed tens of thousand seed to members since 2008, and has planted over 900 trees statewide. Our breeding program, which unlike other chestnut restoration plans, does not involve creating hybrids with non-native species within the chestnut genus (like the crossing our trees with Chinese chestnut trees), but rather, involves locating large surviving trees showing levels of natural resistance to blight, manually pollinating them with other tress across geographic areas to insure gen diversity, and taking the seed resulting from those breedings and distributing the seed to members and other conservation agency to plant and manage within the native range. Or naturally occurring range.
Al Knox explaining how to handle the fragile Ozark Chinquapin seed to volunteers at Hobbs State Park