American chestnuts (Castanea dentate) were prized trees in North American forests until blight wiped them out in the last century. Researchers have been trying to breed a disease-resistant variety to replace this noble species. Not only are chestnuts great trees for producing wood for furniture and food for wildlife, American chestnuts could also help reduce global warming because of their fast growth rate.
Researchers at Purdue University compared a few remaining American chestnuts growing in the wild with other deciduous tree species, such as northern red oak and black walnut. They found American chestnuts not only grew faster than these other tree species, but had up to 3 times the biomass of other trees at the same age and sequestered more carbon. The American chestnut could be a key species in reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and mitigating global warming. Breeders are working on a blight-resistant chestnut variety by crossing the few remaining American chestnuts with the blight-resistant Chinese chestnut. They have developed trees that are 94% American chestnut, yet still have the resistance gene.
For more information on American chestnut, go to: Science Daily
Article published on July 13, 2009.