Can Genetic Engineering Bring Back the American Chestnut?

Author: Gabriel Popkin (New York Times)
Source: Visit Site
Can Genetic Engineering Bring Back the American Chestnut?

Sometime in 1989, Herbert Darling got a call: A hunter told him he had come across a tall, straight American chestnut tree on Darling’s property in Western New York’s Zoar Valley. Darling knew that chestnuts were once among the area’s most important trees. He also knew that a deadly fungus had all but wiped out the species more than a half-century earlier. When he heard the hunter’s report of having seen a living chestnut whose trunk was two feet thick and rose to the height of a five-story building, he was skeptical. “I wasn’t sure I believed he knew what one was,” Darling says.

When Darling found the tree, it was like beholding a mythical creature. “To be so straight and perfect a specimen — it was just outstanding,” he says. But Darling also saw that the tree was dying. It had been struck by the same blight that had, starting in the early 1900s, killed an estimated three billion or more of its kind, modern history’s first major tree-destroying disease spread by man. If he couldn’t save the tree, Darling figured, he would at least save its seeds. There was just one problem: The tree wasn’t making any, because there were no other chestnut trees nearby to pollinate it.

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