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Author Topic: American Chestnut and Biogenetics?  (Read 1022 times)

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Offline kantuckid

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American Chestnut and Biogenetics?
« on: September 12, 2022, 08:14:15 AM »
Several days ago, I read a newspaper article about the switch from what I'll call selective breeding to modified genetics to return the American Chestnut back into our US forests. Noteworthy is that several of the key leaders in the research work to breed a new Chestnut tree quit the professional group in protest over their desire to not see modified genes used in this effort.
In today's news I see a headline stating that our political leaders are supporting biomodification in seeds and much more.
Without the politics, does this mean the Chestnut might come back in a way that some see as the wrong direction to choose? 
I'd like to hear a foresters point of view toward this as relates to trees. The Ash tree comes to mind, besides the Chestnut. 
Kan=Kansas;tuck=Kentucky;kid=what I'm not

Offline Den-Den

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Re: American Chestnut and Biogenetics?
« Reply #1 on: September 12, 2022, 09:40:15 AM »
I am not a forester.
Selective breeding is one way to modify genetics.  Directly modifying the genes is another way.  Both have the risk of unintended consequences.  Extensive testing can reduce (but not eliminate) that risk.  I am interested in seeing a variety of Chestnut that will thrive but not one that will become the next Chinese Tallow.
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Offline Ron Wenrich

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Re: American Chestnut and Biogenetics?
« Reply #2 on: September 12, 2022, 05:39:58 PM »
I was doing some volunteer work with the American Chestnut Foundation back in the early '80s.  I remember seeing some 12-14" chestnut timber on a job I was marking and got interested in what they were doing. 

Back then they were looking for large specimen trees that they could use for cross breeding with other chestnut trees.  The theory was that these trees had survived the chestnut blight, and had some superior resistance.  They used Chinese chestnut to crossbreed, since they are blight resistant.  After they reached a certain size, if I recall it was at about 7-10yrs, they introduced the blight.  Those that survived were used for the next generation of cross breeding.

The theory was to keep on doing the cross breeding with the eventual goal of having a tree with 90% American chestnut and 10% Chinese chestnut.  Even at that time, they were talking about gene editing and possibly use a frog gene to bring about blight resistance. 

Things changed in the mid-80s and I moved on to other things in my career.  So, I haven't kept up with it since.

The gene editing seems to be the quick and easy way to do things.  However, there was a lot of discussion in about the 80-90s about Frankentrees.  We could, in theory, develop trees that would give great growth, be resistant to drought and disease, and be bug resistant.  But, at what costs?

Genetically altered trees would be predominately used in commercial plantations.  But, natural forests are full of diversity.  This includes the relationships between trees, animals, and insects.  How do you keep the genetically altered tree from expanding into the natural forests?  We've seen what has happened with invasive species, and how do you prevent Frankentrees from becoming one?

I'm not sure that an altered chestnut quite fits the profile of a Frankentree.  Native chestnuts are rare.  The plant and animal relationship has been lost.  As long as the only change is to blight resistance, I would think it would be okay.  Problems could arise if you start fooling around with other unnatural characteristics. 
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Online KEC

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Re: American Chestnut and Biogenetics?
« Reply #3 on: September 12, 2022, 09:17:15 PM »
Supposedly, in some parts of the Northeast, the American Chestnut made up 40% of the  pre-colonial tree community. If USDA approves the planting of the genetically modified trees I'd like to buy some and plant on my 1 acre or on private land with owner approval.

Offline Menagerie-Manor

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Re: American Chestnut and Biogenetics?
« Reply #4 on: September 12, 2022, 10:34:17 PM »
Supposedly, in some parts of the Northeast, the American Chestnut made up 40% of the  pre-colonial tree community. If USDA approves the planting of the genetically modified trees I'd like to buy some and plant on my 1 acre or on private land with owner approval.
My first home in Mahwah NJ (not to far from you) was an 1890's fieldstone farmhouse and every stick of lumber and trim was rough sawn local chestnut and it was gorgeous. I remember sitting at my basement shop bench looking at the actual 2x8 floor joists.
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Offline kantuckid

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Re: American Chestnut and Biogenetics?
« Reply #5 on: September 16, 2022, 09:01:09 AM »
Today's (9/16/22) NYT's has yet again another forestry article featuring the American Chestnut and the efforts to re-create it vis both selection and genetic alterations. The article discusses the trees having 9/10th's American Chesnut, 1/10th Chinese parentage that are now planted in SE Ohio on old strip mine land. Also mentioned ar work toward White Oak and Red Spruce.  
Kan=Kansas;tuck=Kentucky;kid=what I'm not

Offline Ron Wenrich

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Re: American Chestnut and Biogenetics?
« Reply #6 on: September 16, 2022, 09:52:44 AM »
What are the reasons for white oak and red spruce?  I'm thinking that the red spruce may be for the budworm.  That would mean that the genetic engineering is leaning on it being a GMO.  Not a good move, IMO. 
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Offline BrandonTN

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Re: American Chestnut and Biogenetics?
« Reply #7 on: September 23, 2022, 01:05:02 AM »
I've heard it straight from the mouth of one of the USFS southern research station's PhD research forester that the chestnut resistance breeding effort over past 15 years in Southern Apps has not yielded good results. GMO in private forests is an option, but risky as hell. Probably wouldnt happen on public lands.
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Offline Don P

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Re: American Chestnut and Biogenetics?
« Reply #8 on: September 23, 2022, 05:42:07 AM »
There's a couple of Dunstan's my wife brought home that I need to plant this weekend. Having grown up with the stumps and last few stragglers in the forest, it would sure be nice to see them back.
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Offline brianJ

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Re: American Chestnut and Biogenetics?
« Reply #9 on: September 23, 2022, 07:06:27 AM »
There's a couple of Dunstan's my wife brought home that I need to plant this weekend. Having grown up with the stumps and last few stragglers in the forest, it would sure be nice to see them back.
Where did she buy them?   and I bet more than just me are interested in planting some.

Offline Don P

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Re: American Chestnut and Biogenetics?
« Reply #10 on: September 23, 2022, 07:51:09 AM »
I looked them up and don't know what to say when we patent life. They are available and nuts do sprout when they hit the ground. They apparently started as a natural that was disease resistant that has been grafted and crossed with a variety of chinese, which is not my favorite tree. I hope these have a more timber habit and are very resistant. We have active blight in the woods. In deciding where to plant, this is not a tree you want near the house, that burr is not front lawn friendly.
The future is a foreign country, they will do things differently there - Simon Winchester

Offline nativewolf

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Re: American Chestnut and Biogenetics?
« Reply #11 on: September 23, 2022, 02:00:27 PM »
 The tree breeding program was a huge and well intentioned effort.  It's worth continuing.  However, the GMO effort delivers results today where as the cross breeding program has yielded just so so results after decades and tens of millions in effort.  The American Chestnut Foundataion tree farm is just down the road from my folks farm. Anyway, the GMO effort is designed around implanting a gene from wheat (so a gene that we all touch and deal with) that inhibits the formation and growth of the fungus.  The researchers basically asked  what genes are known to stop this type of pathogen and lets try splicing those into Chestnut.  That's what they did, it works.  FDA has blocked it for over a decade.  

Over time (million years, lots of breeding) it is likely that nature would have resolved this in the same way the researchers did, either through mutation or genes moving from wheat to X to X to X to X to trees.  It can happen all sorts of ways and has literally happened before our eyes with the roundup resistant genes.  Nature is awesome and amazing and scary.

If the FDA finally gets off it's bottom (and remember that Trump had to almost strangle the FDA people to get the covid vaccine fast tracked) you could see American chestnut very soon and at scale and with very very good resistance (not perfect).  The neat thing about this is that it would be identical wood fiber and growth characteristics; we dont' know where the cross breeding ends up in terms of a "tree".

The risk is that the pathogen gets more virulent and the increased virulent pathogen might then be able to attack elm or ash (that is me being sarcastic...my humor can be tough on others).  Ok it could move into white oak or red oak or heaven help me pin oaks.  At this point I think we need to start being aggressive in our defense of species and look actively at GMO.  Beech, Ash, Elm, Chestnut, Sassafras, Sweetbay, Hemlock, and others are under attack or almost extinct due to human activity.  There are risks but our forest today seem to be just 3 pathogens away from complete death.  We have to find some way to intervene on the side of our native species.  
Liking Walnut

Offline kantuckid

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Re: American Chestnut and Biogenetics?
« Reply #12 on: September 24, 2022, 08:43:47 AM »
I wish I knew if your right about moving forward with GMO in trees. Given we are not permitted to say much here political, the FDA quickly becomes just that sort of thing. 
They could plant some bio crap gene in Kudzu and I'd go for that one, no quarrels. :D 

As we speak the FDA has given approval to the latest covid booster without any human trials (mice only) and my wife & I as seniors must decide if we'll get some more vax jabs this fall, or not. 

In my area the FBI imprisoned a local Amish man, Sam Girod who was making and selling his salve with claims it helped skin related maladies. I saw his name on a local authors panel for a county library a few miles from me, speaking on his book and how those agencies the FDA & FBI had conspired to kill his dreams of having a small salve business. 
Yet on TV we see non-medical remedies all day long with claims of miracle results via $millions of bucks$ spent in advertising. Money speaks and the American Chestnut is small potatoes in the plant world I suspect. Grains get most of the play in that area?

My point is that they do some scary stuff and seems we never know for sure what's OK coming from them either. 
Kan=Kansas;tuck=Kentucky;kid=what I'm not


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