Tuesday, August 21, 2012

"...But only God can make a tree"

Walter Russell Mead describes an environmental effort everyone can celebrate:
.... The American chestnut tree was once king of the Eastern forest. Its sturdy hardwood, its beautiful shape, and its nourishing nuts aided Americans’ construction, crafts, and cooking for hundreds of years. Tragically, a fungus from Asia killed billions of trees, and only a small number remain today.

A group of biologists from Syracuse may rewrite that history. Using genetic modification techniques, they have apparently found a way to protect native American chestnut stock from the blight. The Wall Street Journal reports that the massive restoration project has begun:
The efforts were picked up again in the 1980s by scientists and plant lovers who founded the American Chestnut Foundation. They applied a new method, called backcross breeding, which was first used for corn that imparts preferable traits over several generations.

The foundation started planting their new chestnuts—one-sixteenth Chinese and the rest American—in Virginia in 2006. More than 100,000 of the trees are growing across 19 states, with plans for millions more in what the group calls the country’s largest ecological restoration effort. Thousands of trees were inoculated with the fungus in June 2011, with 20% showing strong resistance and 40% with a more moderate amount, foundation president Bryan Burhans said. Scientists will select for the strongest resistances when breeding future generations, he said.
This is true environmentalism in action: conservation restoring the beauty and the riches of the world we have been given. ....
Next let's reverse the effects of Dutch Elm disease. And save the Ash trees.

 Scientists Reverse America’s Worst Ecological Disaster | Via Meadia