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Indiana’s #CentennialChallenge was to provide a variety of chestnuts and butternuts, 100 for each of four schools. Due to COVID-19 the project was postponed until spring of 2021.
Donna Rogler, Forestry Education Specialist for the Indiana Division of Forestry worked with Jim McKenna, operational tree breeder at the Hardwood Tree Improvement and Regeneration Center at Purdue University on this project.
Mr. McKenna grew, lifted, tagged, and bundled 500 seedlings for the project. The trees were a mix of pure American chestnut, Chinese chestnut, hybrid chestnuts, pure butternut and hybrid butternut. Each tree was marked as to its genotype. The history of American chestnut and its loss on the landscape due to chestnut blight are a well-known story. The loss of butternut due to butternut canker is not as well-known. For these reasons, these two trees are being extensively studied at Purdue University and why these trees were chosen for these research plantings.
Planting days were scheduled at four of the schools. 100 trees t were also planted at Greene-Sullivan State Forest. Each teacher was instructed that trees were to be mapped either as a hand drawn map or by using GPS. At each school, students did the planting. Two of the schools had the students dig the holes for the trees. The other two schools had the holes augered. The final planting was completed in Salem on May 22, 2021. All schools followed up with watering the seedlings in the weeks that followed.
The teachers were provided with basic information on the trees, including history of the American chestnut. A protocol was also provided on monitoring the growth of the trees.
Mr. McKenna is a member of the Indiana Nut and Fruit Growers Association (INFGA) and presented the project to their Board of Directors. As a result the INFGA made a grant to the Indiana Forestry Educational Foundation to support the project. This grant covered the cost of tree tubes and protectors, shovels, pruners, and signage for the plantings. Signage will include that this was a project of the NASF #CentennialChallenge.
Follow-up visits will be made to each planting site during the fall of 2021.