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[nafex] Grafting chestnuts
I've been doing some volunteer work for The American Chestnut
Foundation, specifically on their "Mother Tree" project. They already have
a number of 3rd & 4th generation hybrids (American & Chinese) with pretty
good resistance & are beginning to cross these trees to local trees (stump
sprouts)throughout the native range (the Mother Trees). The idea is to
produce 95+% American Chestnuts with genes adapted to the local conditions.
At present, the procedure is to collect pollen from the hybrids
(growing a farm in SW VA and other spots) and cross-pollinate native trees.
There are a lot of logistic problems with this approach, though. Native
trees are usually pretty tall and thin before they produce flowers (there's
a short period between the time the sprouts are large enough to fruit and
when the blight gets them). Bucket trucks are about the only way to get up
to the flowers. Then you have to bag the flower & be sure you can get back
up to collect the nuts.
As an alternative, it seems to me that an easier technique would be
to take scion wood from local Mother Trees & top-work some of the hybrid
trees at the farm. The big advantage to this technique would be that the
farm trees, irrigated, spaced & well-fertilized, begin blooming at about 5-6
years and are bushy and have plenty of flowering close to the ground. By
grafting the native scion on the lower branches, many of the logistic
problems could be avoided.
However, I have read some NAFEX correspondence suggesting that
chestnut grafting is difficult. Could anyone discuss this a bit? Is the
idea of top-working hybrid trees practical?
thanks in advance.
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