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Northern Research Station
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Newtown Square, PA 19073
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You are here: NRS Home / Research Programs /Forest Disturbance Processes / Invasive Species / Identification and Utilization of Ectomycorrhizal Fungi for Restoration of the American Chestnut in Reclaimed Mined Lands
Forest Disturbance Processes

Identification and Utilization of Ectomycorrhizal Fungi for Restoration of the American Chestnut in Reclaimed Mined Lands

Research Issue

The American chestnut, once the third most dominant tree in eastern United States forests, has been almost eliminated by an invasive fungus, Cryphonectria parasitica. The fungus was first introduced to North America in 1904. It quickly spread into its new and defenseless host population as happens with many other nonnative pest introductions. As a result, American chestnuts are being reduced to mere susceptible shrubs instead of being one of the most dominant tree species.

Extensive research efforts during the last two decades have given much hope for restoring this beloved tree to its natural range. A tree breeding program initiated by the American Chestnut Foundation appears very close to establishing a blight-resistant American chestnut. Another research effort, focused on the “hypovirulence” phenomenon and application of genetic engineering technology, has also shown great potential in combating the blight fungus. Overall, these technologies show promise for restoration of the American chestnut.

 Our Research

[photo] Mycorrhizal chestnut  roots as seen under a dissecting microscope.We have been working on restorating American chestnuts in southeastern Ohio, which was part of its natural range. Some of these lands have been severely affected by excessive mining operations for several decades. Therefore, we have incorporated utilization of ectomycorrhizal fungi in the restoration efforts. Mycorrhizal fungi may play a vital role, because these fungi are essential for the survival of trees by supporting growth under a variety of subnormal soil and other stress conditions.

Although there have been many reports of associating of ectomycorrhizal fungi with the American chestnut, systematic studies to identify species that form functional symbiotic interactions with chestnut tree roots and their usefulness in restoration efforts have not been carried out. We are utilizing transmission electron microscopy and molecular tools to analyze the formation of mycorrhiza on chestnut roots with specific inoculated fungi.

In our laboratory, we tested several species of ectomycorrhizal fungi for their ability to form mycorrhizal interactions with American chestnut roots. We identified five known and two novel strains of ectomycorrhizal fungi to form associations with chestnut roots. This was confirmed by transmission electron microscopic analyses and molecular methods (DNA sequencing).

[photo] Mycorrhizal chestnut seedlingsWe have been generating mycorrhizal chestnut seedlings in the laboratory and planting them in reclaimed mined lands of southeastern Ohio. These are being monitored for identification of critical factors essential for the establishment, growth and survival of chestnuts planted in various abandoned and reforested mined sites. Also, we are evaluating planting sites with respect to terrains, soil type, and presence/absence of other vegetation.

Expected Outcomes

Mychorrizae suitable for inoculating American chestnut for reclamation of abandoned coal mines, reforestation of badlands, and general restoration of the American chestnut.

Research Results

Hiremath, S.; Lehtoma, K.; Nagle, A.; Bonello, P. In press. Screening for Phytophthora cinnamomi  in reclaimed mined lands targeted for American chestnut restoration projects. Proceedings, USDA Interagency Research Forum on Gypsy Moth and other Invasive Species, 2010. Gen. Tech. Rep. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station.

Bauman, Jenise; Keiffer, Carolyn; Hiremath, Shiv. 2009. Environmental variables as predictors for ectomycorrhizal species in American chestnut (Castanea dentata) mine reclamation. Proceedings, Annual Ecological Society Meeting, 2009. No. 20119, p 58.

Bauman, J. M.; Keiffer, C. H.; Lehtoma K. J.; Hiremath, S. 2007. An evaluation of planting sites and mycorrhizal amendments for successful establishment of American chestnut (Castanea dentata) in mine reclamation. Proceedings, Ecological Society of America (ESA) Annual Meeting, 2007. CA; 2007.  p 65.

Hiremath, S.; Lehtoma, K.; Hebard, F. 2007. Blight resistant American chestnut trees: Selection of progeny from a breeding program. In: Gottschalk, Kurt W., ed. Proceedings, 17th U.S. Department of Agriculture Interagency Research Forum on Gypsy Moth and Other Invasive Species, 2006. Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-P-10. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station: 54.

Hiremath, Shiv; Lehtoma, Kirsten. 2006. “Ectomycorrhizal fungi association with the American chestnut”. Proceedings, 17th USDA Interagency Research Forum on Gypsy Moth and Other Invasive Species, 2006. Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-P-10. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station: 53.

Hiremath, Shiv; Lehtoma, Kirsten.  2006. Mycorrhizal chestnut seedlings in reforestation efforts in reclaimed lands of southeastern Ohio. Proceedings, 10th Billings Land Reclamation Symposium, Billings, MT.

Hiremath, S.; Lehtoma, K.; McQuattie, C. 2004. Identification of ectomycorrhizal fungi forming symbiotic association with American chestnut and their utilization in restoration efforts. Proceedings, Eastern CANUSA Forest Science Conference, 2004. p252.

Hiremath, S.; McQuattie, C.; Podila, G. 2002. Potential marker genes for ectomycorrhizal symbiosis: ultrastructural analyses. Proceedings, 10th New Phytologist Symposium on Functional Genomics of Plant-Microbe Interactions, Nancy-Velaine, France; 23-25 October 2002. Symposium 2002 Proceedings: p60.

Varley, D.; Podilla, G.K.; Hiremath, S.T. 1992. Cutinase in Cryphonectria parasitica, the chestnut blight fungus: Suppression of cutinase gene expression in isogenic strains containing double-stranded RNAs. Molec. Cell. Biol. 12: 4539-4544.

Research Participants

Principal Investigator

  • Shiv Hiremath, Research Biologist, U.S. Forest Service, Northern Research Station

Research Partners

  • John Sprouse, Director, Ohio State Dept. of Natural Resources Division of Mining & Reclamation, Cambridge, Ohio
  • Gary Willison, Wayne National Forest, Nelsonville, Ohio
  • Carolyn Keiffer, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio
  • Fred Hebard, The American Chestnut Foundation, Meadowview, Virginia
  • Dana Richter, Michigan Tech University, Houghton, Michigan

Last Modified: 10/19/2010

About this Research Area

Science theme: Managing with Disturbance

Science Topic: Invasive Species

Featured Product

Hiremath, S.; Lehtoma, K.; Hebard, F. 2007. Blight resistant American chestnut trees: Selection of progeny from a breeding program. In: Gottschalk, Kurt W., ed. Proceedings, 17th U.S. Department of Agriculture Interagency Research Forum on Gypsy Moth and Other Invasive Species, 2006. Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-P-10. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station: 54.