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Oral: Shovel-Ready Trees: Novel Strategies for Development of Disease Resistant Woody Plants


Shovel-ready trees: Forest Health Initiative a model for rapid development and deployment of disease resistant trees
C. NELSON (1), C. Nelson (2), W. Powell (3), S. Merkle (4), J. Carlson (5), M. Staton (6), C. Nairn (7), J. Holliday (8), J. Westbrook (9), L. Georgi (9), F. Hebard (9), T. Zhebentyayeva (10), S. Jeffers (10), P. Sisco (9), J. James (11), A. Abbott (12) (

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The Forest Health Initiative (FHI) was founded to develop and test a model for rapidly responding to invasive forest tree pathogens and pests. The developed model begins with a comprehensive evaluation of the biological and technological options, in both ecologic and social contexts. Once a preferred option or a set of options is determined, an inter-disciplinary research team is formed and funded to complete the work. A test case is being implemented for the restoration of American chestnut (Castanea dentata), where robust resistance is critically needed for two invasive pathogens— Cryphonectria parasitica (Cp), causative agent of chestnut blight, and Phytophthora cinnamomi (Pc), causative agent of Phytophthora root rot. Biological research has progressed along two distinct yet integrated lines—marker-assisted hybrid breeding with clonal selection and multiplication, and genetic modification utilizing candidate genes isolated primarily from related chestnut species. Both of these approaches were informed by previous work in transcriptomics and genetic mapping and are currently being supported by QTL- and whole-genome sequencing. We will present and discuss the current results of the biological sciences research of FHI and the prospects for American chestnut restoration and applications in other forest tree systems.