Inside the Source: Another Threat to Chestnut

June 19, 2019 

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Another Pathogen Poses Risk to Chestnut Reestablishment 
By Andrea Watts

With the 2019 SAF National Convention to be hosted in Louisville, Kentucky, members can look forward to a number of presentations and tours on the White Oak ecosystem that dominates the eastern United States. One notable tree species absent from this ecosystem is the American chestnut (Castanea dentata). The fungal pathogen chestnut blight (Cryphonectria parasitica) is largely responsible for this loss; this Asian pathogen was detected in New York in 1904, and 50 years later, virtually all mature chestnuts in the eastern United States had been eliminated from the landscape.

Green Forests Work is a nonprofit whose mission is restoring forests on what were formerly surface mines in Appalachia. (See The Forestry Source, October 2015.) Blight-resistant American chestnut varieties are among the species being replanted; however, there’s yet another pathogen on the landscape that may forestall the chestnut’s return.

Phytophthora cinnamomi—Kenton Sena, a lecturer in Lewis Honor’s College at the University of Kentucky (UK) can rattle off the pathogen’s name without tripping over the consonants. P. cinnamomi is more commonly known as ink disease or Phytophthora root rot. Although this pathogen appeared in the southeastern United States in the late 1800s and subsequent chestnut dieback was reported in the 1890s, the pathogen didn’t attract the same notice as chestnut blight.

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