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11 Campus Blvd., Suite 200
Newtown Square, PA 19073
(610) 557-4017
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Forest Disturbance Processes

Development of an American Beech Breeding Program

Research Issue

[photo] Resistant American beech grafts producing beechnuts.There are American beech trees that remain disease-free in forests long affected by beech bark disease.  Insect challenge experiments have demonstrated that such trees are resistant to the scale insects and extensive fungal infections typically are not observed without prior scale infestation.  Recommended silvicultural treatments for management of BBD include removal of poor-quality, susceptible trees using harvesting methods to minimize injury to the roots and thus reduce the development of root sprouts from these trees.  Beech trees that are clear of scale infestation or signs of fungal infection should be retained as sources of seed and resistant sprouts with the goal of increasing the proportion of healthy, resistant beech.  Research supports these recommendations. 

In response to these recommendations, both state and national forest managers have been including beech-bark-disease-related silvicultural treatments as well as plans for restoration/regeneration of beech as part of their resource management plans.  Specifically, the Allegheny National Forest (ANF) Land and Resource Management Plan (LRMP) of March 2007 includes the following goal: “pursue restoration of native species, such as American chestnut, butternut, and American beech as genetically disease-resistant stock that is physiologically appropriate to the Allegheny Plateau becomes available.”  The ANF LRMP also states that “artificial regeneration shall be limited to fill-in planting to supplement natural regeneration abundance and diversity."

There is a lack of genetically diverse, regionally adapted, beech-bark-disease-resistant planting stock for state and national forest managers to carry out their management plans for dealing with beech bark disease.  The goal of this research is to develop methods for establishing an American beech breeding program to provide the planting stock and seed required for restoration/regeneration and pre-emptive plantings.

 Our Research

Project Objectives

  • Develop insect assay to screen for resistant greenhouse grown beech seedlings and mature field trees
  • Develop vegetative propagation techniques to propagate resistant beech
  • Develop methods to perform controlled cross-pollinations in American beech
  • Determine if resistance to beech bark disease is a genetically inherited trait and therefore amenable to tree improvement through breeding programs.
  • Produce materials necessary to establish genetically diverse seed orchards that produce seed enriched for resistance
  • Produce resistant seedlings for establishing test plantings to determine silvicultural needs for successful growth.  Use plantings to develop seed enrichment zones within NFS lands.
  • Develop genetic linkage map for American beech.
  • Develop genetic markers for resistance that can be used in marker-aided-selection of resistant beech seedlings.

Expected Outcomes

  • Development of American beech seed orchards to provide source of seed resistant to beech bark disease for use in restoration/regeneration and preemptive plantings.
  • Development of markers for us in marker-aided-sSelection of resistant beech seedlings.

Research Results

Koch, Jennifer L. 2010. Beech bark disease: The oldest “new” threat to American beech in the United States. Outlooks on Pest Management 21(2):64-68 (Available online).

Koch, Jennifer L.; Carey, David W.; Mason, Mary E.; Nelson, C. Dana. 2010. Assessment of beech scale resistance in full- and half-sibling American beech families. Can. J. For. Res. 40(2):265-272.

Kubisiak, T.; Carey, D.; Burdine, C.; Koch, J. 2009. Characterization of ten EST-based microsatellite loci isolated from American beech, Fagus grandifolia Ehrh. Molecular. Ecology Resources Database.

Koch, Jennifer L.; Carey, David W.  2005.  The genetics of resistance of American beech to beech bark disease: knowledge through 2004.   In: Evans, Celia A.; Lucas, Jennifer A.; Twery, Mark J., eds. Proceedings, Beech Bark Disease Symposium. Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-331. Newtown Square, PA: US. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Research Station: 98-105.

Koch, Jennifer L.; Carey, David W.  2004.  Controlled cross-pollinations with American beech trees that are resistant to beech bark disease.   In: Yaussy, Daniel A.; Hix, David M.; Long, Robert P.; Goebel, P. Charles, eds. Proceedings, 14th Central Hardwood Forest Conference, 2004. Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-316. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Research Station: 358-364.

Koch, Jennifer L.; Carey, David W.  2004.  Identifying and Enriching for American Beech Trees that are Resistant to Beech Bark Disease.   In: Ward, Jeffrey S.; Twery, Mark J., eds. Forestry Across Borders: Proceedings, New England Society of American Foresters 84th winter meeting, 2004. Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-314. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Research Station: 15-17.

Research Participants

Principal Investigator

  • Jennifer Koch, Research Plant Pathologist, U.S. Forest Service, Northern Research Station

Research Partners

  • Dan Twardus, U.S. Forest Service-State & Private Forestry
  • Robert Heyd, Forest Health Specialist , Michian Dept. of Natural Resources
  • Mary Topa, Director of Research, The Holden Arboretum
  • Paul Bloese, Research Manager, Michigan State University, Dept. of Forestry
  • Tom Hall, Forest Pathologist, Pennsylvania Dept. of Natural Resources and Conservation
  • Paul Berrang, Geneticist, U.S. Forest Service, Eastern Region

Last Modified: 10/19/2010