Kentucky Regional Seed Orchard
By Ken Darnell, KY Chapter
On April 22, 2016, The American Chestnut Regional Seed Orchard on the campus of Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) was launched, in collaboration with the KY-TACF Chapter. The purpose of the orchard is to help restore the American chestnut to its native range by breeding genetically diverse, blight-resistant trees. EKU professors, students, and facilities services, along with TACF volunteers, prepared the site with a targeted first planting of 1,200 seedlings.
Two acres are provided by EKU with a long-term commitment to partner with the KY Chapter to plant and maintain a diverse population of hybrid seedlings that will be tested for blight resistance, with the strongest trees protected and the weaker trees removed. Nearly 3,000 seedlings have been planted to-date, with the first trees now completing their 3rd year of growth. Many of the 3rd season trees are exceeding 12 feet in height.
Seedlings will continue to be planted in fall and spring as genetically diverse specimens are procured. Tom Saielli, TACF’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Science Coordinator, manages the seedling selection and blight testing for the orchard. Jennifer Koslow, Biological Sciences Professor, leads EKU’s professor and student involvement. Chris Pearl leads EKU’s Facilities Services maintenance staff. Many KY Chapter members and volunteers, led by Amos Stone, invest their time to oversee the orchard and to assist in the ongoing plantings, weeding, and fence building.
EKU Facilities Services and the KY Chapter invested several days in October constructing a deer-proof fence around the two-acre orchard. Of course, a fence includes corner braces and gates. This fence will be completed in mid-November, just in time to protect the trees against winter deer browse.
The next planting work day is scheduled for November 29, 2018. Information for that planting is posted on the chapter’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages inviting volunteers to help with the planting and to witness our growing and prospering chestnut trees.