The American chestnut, once a staple of Southern Appalachian forests, was wiped out in the early 1900s when a blight arrived from Asia, killing almost all mature chestnuts.
In 2007, Cataloochee Ranch planted its orchard of chestnuts, which are hybrids of Chinese chestnuts and America chestnuts. The variety is backcrossed to include just enough of the Chinese chestnut species to be blight-resistant but genetically similar to the American chestnut.
The orchard has been inoculated with the blight, and any trees that don’t show resistance to it are then thinned out. The remaining trees will then be intercrossed, with the hope that progeny show high levels of blight resistance.
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