Chestnut trees will be planted by UNH students after blight has killed a record number of trees, in an attempt to save the species. Unfortunately the trees will probably produce chestnuts for roasting about five years after they’re being planted.
The re-planting project is being done by the NH Agricultural Experiment Station in collaboration with the American Chestnut Foundation. The 350 chestnut trees which will be planted during the spring have been crossbred to become blight-resistant. Students at the University of New Hampshire will prepare for the big plantation starting this winter by clearing the land.
Kendra Collins, science coordinator at the American Chestnut Foundation says that the fungal disease that came to North America from imported trees has killed most of the American chestnuts, which was a very common species until 100 years ago.
According to Collins, the only reason why the species isn’t considered totally extinct is that the chestnut does occasionally resprout from its own roots, even if they don’t live long. However, the species is considered functionally extinct since those trees are not flowering so they are not producing chestnuts or any other benefits.
Until the 1920s when the blight killed most of the, chestnut trees were very common in the southern counties of New Hampshire, up to the Lakes Region. Their nuts were providing food for people and for many species of wild animals while their rot-resistant wood was widely used in construction and especially for furniture.
The American Chestnut Foundation has been created in 1983. They have lately made great efforts to try save the species and they engineered the first blight-resistant tree about a decade ago. Since then the trees have been tested with positive results and starting next year more replanting projects will take place all over the United States.
At the University of New Hampshire the re-planting project will be coordinated by Steve Eisenhaure from the Office of Woodlands and Natural Areas. The students will have the chance to gain research and practical experience.
UNH’s students are also planting other tree species, such as pitch pine, white pine and red spruce, used by the University’s researchers but also by the Forest Service of the United States. Eisenhaure is positive that having more plantings and more species to study will highly benefit the students and the research teams from the UNH.
Researchers will be monitoring the planted chestnuts to figure out the best way of re-planting the trees in wider areas.
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