Monday, July 14, 2014

The Tree That Made America

I read a few years ago that work was being done to bring back  the American Chestnut tree.  Here is an article discussing the use of genetic splicing to help it build resistance to the foreign fungus that virtually wiped it off the face of America.
In the first half of the 20th century, however, the American chestnut fell victim to a fungus unintentionally imported from China, and the tree that once dominated the forest canopy of the eastern U.S. all but disappeared. Now it is on the cusp of a comeback, a testament to America's scientific ingenuity.

For years, scientists have been trying to develop a strain of chestnut tree that was immune, using traditional hybridization methods to instill resistance from Chinese chestnut trees into the American variety. Now plant scientists have found another way to develop a chestnut tree that fights off the fungus. Borrowing a gene from wheat, they created a strain that produces a substance that neutralizes the fungus's lethal acid. What's more, this trait is passed along to seedlings. Versions with even greater resistance are in development.

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