American Chestnut

The mission of the American Chestnut Research and Restoration Center is to conduct basic and applied research that will lead to the development of a blight-resistant American chestnut tree (Castanea dentata). The American chestnut was once a keystone tree species in the eastern deciduous forests. It also produced an important nut crop for agriculture and rot resistant wood for the forest industry. In addition, this tree was important to our history and is often referred to as a heritage tree.
Over one hundred years ago, the American chestnut was decimated by an exotic fungal pathogen, Cryphonectria parasitica, which was introduced from Asia. It took only fifty years to kill almost all of the three to six billion mature chestnut trees in our forests. Our goal is to develop and reintroduce a population of blight resistant American chestnut trees back into forest ecosystems of New York and then the rest of the eastern United States.

Project Title: The American Chestnut Research and Restoration Project

This research project has been going on for more than 20 years and has evolved from basic research into a multifaceted endeavor that includes such areas as the identification of plant pathogen resistance-enhancing genes from other chestnut species and other plants, the development of American chestnut tissue culture and transformation protocols, field testing transgenic American chestnut trees for chestnut blight resistance and Phytophthora resistance, and studying possible impacts on non-target organisms.

This research involves researchers at all levels from graduate, undergraduate, and high school students to faculty collaborators, visiting scholars, and technician researchers. We collaborate with many universities including Univ. of Georgia, Penn State, NC State, and Clemson, as well as many organizations such as The American Chestnut Foundation, the Institute of Forest Biotechnology, ArborGen LLC, and the US Forest Service. We endeavor to be transparent in this research setting up public demonstration plantings, giving public presentations, and giving tours of the research labs.

Location: Eastern United States

Current participants at SUNY-ESF:
Co-Directors: Dr. Charles A. Maynard (email: and Dr. William A. Powell (email:
Faculty collaborators: Drs. Donald Leopold, Thomas Horton, Dylan Parry
Researchers: Kathleen Baier, Andy Newhouse, Lilibeth Northern, and Linda McGuigan
Graduate Students: Amelia Bo Zhang (PhD), Katie D’Amico (MS), Allison Oakes (MS), Kristen Russell (MPS), Sam Tourtellot, and James Johnson.

Current Funding:

  • Forest Health Initiative
  • USDA Biotechnology Risk Assessment Grant program
  • The New York Chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation
  • ArborGen LLC
  • Unger Vetlesen Foundation

For more information about of the American Chestnut Research and Restoration project: visit: