I had the opportunity to visit Dr. Sandy Anagnostakis on a morning tour of the Connecticut Agriculture Experiment Station (CAES) in Hamden. With their new half mile long deer fence, CAES cutting edge research, and thousands of chestnuts heavy with nuts, I had pleanty of excuses for the visit. But what I really wanted to see was the latest orchard work, and I got much more than I'd expected.
Left: Dr. Sandy Anagnostakis, Bill Adamsen
Background: “Rocky Hill” American chestnuts
Photo Credit: Rich Cecarelli
Dr. Sandy is not just a scientist, but a chestnut historian. Her talk moved from current work in the genetics of chestnut to Thomas Jefferson's nascent work in the grafting of European chestnut onto American stock. Dr. Sandy pointed out that the longest-continuing chestnut breeding program in the United States is that in CT. Dr. Arthur H. Graves of CAES planted trees on land that he owned in Hamden, and started making crosses in 1930. Two of Dr.Graves students, Hans Nienstaedt and Richard A. Jaynes continued that research, providing a continuum to Dr. Sandy today.
One is immediately struck by the number of American chestnuts. Dr. Sandy has pioneered the use of hypovirulence to enhance resistance. The trees are canker covered, but very much alive, flowering, and fruiting. Visible behind us in the photo below are mature, pure American chestnut trees from Rocky Hill and Roxbury which flower and produce nuts. She's offered their use to the Chapter for pollination, an efficient approach to adding diversity to the CT gene pool.
This was a tour no TACF member should miss. And with a tour scheduled for immediately following the annual
membership meeting in November (led by Dr. Anagnostakis' assistant Pam Sletten) you too can enjoy what I did.