Five Years and 6,000 Seeds Later
By Eric Evans, ME-TACF Breeding Coordinator
On a sunny Sunday morning in April, fourteen volunteers showed up to help ME-TACF orchard manager Larry Totten and Maine Chapter Board members plant 600 seeds in our chestnut seed orchard in Phippsburg, ME. The orchard consists of two blocks of Clapper-resistance B3F2 hybrid chestnuts from 20 breeding lines. We planted the first 10 plots of 150 seeds there in 2012, and this year’s planting of four plots is the final for these blocks, bringing the total to 6000 seeds. After evaluating the trees for blight-resistance and American form over the next five years, and keeping the best tree in each plot, we expect to collect seeds for test plantings and chestnut restoration plantings in Maine in the 2020s and beyond.
The orchard is on a reclaimed gravel pit is owned by The Nature Conservancy. It’s located in the Basin Preserve in mid-coast Maine. The site is sloping and mostly well-drained, but compaction of the gravel in some areas has made drilling difficult. Nevertheless, germination and growth in nearly every plot has been 85-90%.