Meadowview Research Farms
29010 Hawthorne Drive • Meadowview, VA 24361-3349 • 276-944-4631
Meadowview, Virginia is home to The American Chestnut Foundation’s research farms. This property and its facilities are used to breed American chestnut trees for resistance to the blight fungus. Meadowview includes more than 50,000 trees at various stages of the breeding process, planted on more than 150 acres.
TACF first established the Wagner Research Farm in 1989 as a means to formally execute the backcross breeding program. Chestnut trees have been planted, crossed, and grown on the Wagner Research Farm for more than 25 years.
In 1995, the farm was filled to capacity with more than 5,800 chestnut trees at various stages of backcrossing. A generous donation enabled purchase of land nearby, now known as the Glenn C. Price Research Farm. A third farm was purchased in 2002 and a fourth farm in 2006. Additionally, breeding orchards for the ‘Nanking’ source of blight resistance are located at the Matthews State Forest near Galax, Virginia.
The backcross breeding program is the primary breeding approach used at Meadowview. This program introduces the blight resistance of the Chinese chestnut tree into the American chestnut tree. The only characteristic we want from the Chinese tree is its blight resistance, so we are using the backcross method to dilute out the undesirable characteristics of the Chinese parent in hybrids. The backcross method entails breeding the two tree species to obtain a hybrid that is 1/2 American, 1/2 Chinese. This hybrid is then backcrossed to American chestnut to obtain a tree that is 3/4 American, 1/4 Chinese on average. Backcrosses that are blight resistant are backcrossed again to American chestnut, to obtain trees that are 7/8 American, 1/8 Chinese. A third cycle of selecting and backcrossing produces trees that are 15/16 American, 1/16 Chinese. Plant breeders have found that third backcrosses are indistinguishable from the recurrent parent, in this case American chestnut. The final step is to intercross third backcrosses with each other to produce trees that have a chance of inheriting the genes for blight resistance from both parents, so they will be true-breeding for those genes, and serve as the mother trees to produce nuts for reforestation.
To learn about volunteer opportunities at Meadowview Research Farms, please call 276-944-4631.