SONG News June 1999 no. 55
In this Issue...

SONG at Canada Blooms

Once again SONG was at Canada Blooms to promote our organization. The show was even more successful than last year, with SONG having new in their display a video machine built into a television to enable us to show some videos on nut tree growing and culture. With the crowds taking in all of the great displays, fabulous flowers, and landscaping. For those that missed the chance to volunteer , we will be there again next year and look forward to seeing new faces there. (SONG will pay for your parking and you also get in for free if you will volunteer) There is a lot of interest in nuts and their culture, and the Canada Blooms show is one way for SONG to get the information out there and try to draw in some new members. So please we need your help and you can enjoy one of the best Garden Shows Canada has to offer.

Chestnuts - Annual Growers Meeting
Martin Hodgson

Mr. Greg Miller presented a very interesting talk about his operation in Carrollton Ohio. He grew about 20 to 25,000 pounds of chestnuts this year on about 500 trees and. He indicated that it was his experience that chestnuts did not like soil pH > 7. His soil runs about pH 6.5. He believes the soil pH of 4.5 is better than 7, with 5.5 being an optimum. He uses local Amish children to harvest his crop, paying them about ten dollars for every five gallon pail gathered and they can pick-up about 30 to 40 pounds per hour.

He stressed that you cannot let the chestnuts dry out. They fall at about a 50 percent moisture & 40% carbohydrates. When they lose half of their moisture content they spoil more readily. The nuts must be refrigerated and kept firm at high humidity after harvesting . He believes that the in-shell market is most lucrative. They get $4.50-5.00 US per pound wholesale. They use the smaller nuts for peeling and flour.

It takes 2-3 pounds of dried nuts to produce one pound of shelled nuts. The nuts are prepared for shelling by drying them down to between 25 and 30 percent moisture content using warm air at 50-60C. The shells become brittle like peanut shell. The nuts are sucked into a chamber and impact against an anvil which causes the outer casing to pop off. He believes that the nuts are moving at about 200 feet per second. The anvil was made out of expanded metal but he has changed that to wooden blocks that must be replaced daily. About 10 nuts per second are fed into the air stream. They must tune the impact speed on daily basis to offset changes in a moisture content of the nuts and humidity. It cost between 50 cents and a dollar per pound to peel the nuts.

They use all the nuts, small nuts and broken pieces along with those showing a light brown colour go to make flour. The nice ones are kept for fresh or dried consumption. Wormy nuts go to the livestock. They are reputed to enhance the flavour of some chickens. The shells are also use in some manufacturing process possibly to polish metal pieces. He believes that there is a place for seedling trees along with grafted trees. He has about a 50-50 ratio of grafted vs. seedling trees.

Choose your permanent trees carefully. Don't always go with those trees that appear to be heavy bearers. You need growth beyond the nut clusters to ensure next year's harvest. Also remember that next years nut bearing wood, flowers and catkins form in July, so in times of drought, irrigate not only for nut fill, but earlier to insure future harvest's.

He recommended that we use Chinese seedlings not European or Japanese. A good spacing for seedlings is 10 by 20 feet. He indicated that he had had poor luck with tissue cultures. With reference to grafted seedlings he indicated that he had mixed results. Other areas specially those with warmer climates had much better luck. They had good luck when chip budding if they placed the trees in a warm (80°F) greenhouse. After about two to three weeks of good growth, (leaf growth), on the main stem it was trimmed back to about four inches above the bud graft. He indicated that grafted trees should be supported for sometime to prevent the graft from breaking away from the main stem.

One of his slides illustrated the characteristic tiny orange bumps that indicate the presence of chestnut blight. He also showed on another slide twig blight as it manifest itself in the end of a branch is tiny black bumps. This latter blight tends not to be a significant problem to any tree unless it occurs at a graft point.

The chestnut weevil has made its appearance in his orchard. He uses concentrations of Sevin at levels two to three times higher than usual concentrations to combat this pest. It is sprayed about three weeks prior to harvest. The insect has a two-year life-cycle. He has found no good methods of trapping these insects. You can collect these weevils using a ground sheet or hand net and shake the tree as they tend to drop away when frightened. Carry out your first spraying operation as soon as you find one of these weevils in your orchard and repeat one week later.

All in all it was a very good meeting with lots of good information received from all of the presenters. We look forward to planning next years meeting and if you have any areas of specific interest perhaps we could plan a meeting around it or add it as part of the agenda.

Annual SONG Auction

Our SONG Spring Auction held at the Civic Garden Centre at Lawrence and Leslie in Toronto on April 17 was its usual success. About 80 people were in attendance. As usual there were more items to sell than there were buyers, but everything was sold. Prices varied, but there were some bargains. Items that were sold varied from bare root and potted nut, fruit and ornamental trees to seed and eating nuts. SONG received one third of the proceeds or $563.25. This will go a long way towards funding worthwhile nut growing activities and projects. We also processed seven new members to add to the SONG fold and sold one SONG hat. Ernie Grimo was the auctioneer, Bob Hambleton and Marion Grimo were the tellers, and several of our executive members acted as runners who completed the transactions. An enjoyable time was had by all.
Ernie Grimo

Ricotta & Hazelnut Ravioli

Got your attention, sounds delicious. Well it was and I just had to ask the chef for the recipe. Irene and I were driving around Yorkshire England, and came upon The Feathers Hotel, which is in a wonderful English town called Helmsley. This town is very quaint with all of the buildings made of stone, it has it's own castle, walled gardens, and good restaurants. All of which offer some degree of vegetarian items on the menu. The following are the recipes for the pasta dough, and the filling. You will have to come up with your own sauce, the chef David did not give me his sauce recipe but you can use your own favourite red or white.
Pasta dough
200 grams double zero pasta flour
2 Whole eggs
Add 1 teaspoon turmeric to 1/4 pint of water and mix with the 2 eggs in a bowl. Place flour in a bowl and add to mixture a little at a time and knead it until soft and pliable. Sprinkle flour on your rolling surface and roll out dough and cut into good-sized rounds.
200 grams ricotta cheese
2 cloves of garlic
10 Hazelnuts
2 small bunches of fresh
salt & pepper
Place a small pan on the stove and heat some olive oil and add garlic cloves and hazelnuts, fry gently for approx. 10 min. keep stirring. Remove from heat (discard garlic) and place hazelnuts, thyme, and Ricotta cheese in a blender and mix together. Place a dollop of filling on the centre of your rolled out dough and sprinkle pastry edge with water and fold in half and seal.

When you are ready to cook place the ravioli in boiling water and when they float again they are ready for you to prepare your favourite pasta sauce. The Feathers served them in a butter, white wine and wild mushroom sauté, the ravioli are added to the sauté and lightly fried. Serve with a nice green salad, your favourite wine, and "bon appetite". I want to thank The Feathers Hotel, Market Place, Helmsley, York, England YO62 5BH, for sharing this recipe, and if the chef David sends me his sauce recipe I will add it in a future issue.

Important Chestnut Research Continues
Preview of Science Report for The Bur

We have exciting progress to report: Also with the grant from New York State, our principle scientists, Drs. Chuck Maynard and Bill Powell, have built the ESF research team to 8 people and have planned the second year's work which is now in progress.

Bill's constructs have promoters (gene switches) that tell genes when and where to go into action. For example, he is currently testing a promoter that switches on genes in wounded tissues and one of his graduate students, Bernadette Connors, is hunting for a promoter that will direct to only be expressed in the cambium layers under the bark. His team is also studying a chitinase made by Trichoderma, one of the predatory fungi that you use in mudpacking. This fungus attacks the blight under the bark and digests with the same chitinase Bill is intending to put in the tree.

Besides Chitinase, another protective gene produces a small peptide antibiotic (ESF 12) that disrupts membranes in the blight fungus, causing it to die. This is one of several peptide antibiotics developed in Bill's lab.

There are several reasons the blight fungus became deadly to the American chestnut. One is that it learned to digest one of the American chestnuts own defensive tannins and use it as a food source. As the fungus grows, it produces several acids, the most abundant and toxic to plant cells is oxalic acid. Bills group is attempting to transform chestnut with a gene coding called oxalate oxidase. This enzyme breaks down the acid into harmless compounds. It is expected that this gene will fight the blights acid attack against the chestnut tree. There may be hope yet for a blight resistant American Chestnut.

One of Bill's students, Hongyu Gao, is making gene constructs that will release all three of these gene products (chitinase, peptide antibiotic, and oxalate oxidase) together. With all three of these defensive gene products fighting the blight, it is expected that the disease resistance will be effective and durable.

Chuck and Bill and their team aren't working alone on this project. This research is the result of help from many labs across the country. The wound-inducible promoter was donated from Dr. Gordon's lab (University of Washington), the Trichoderma chitinase was donated from Dr. Harman's lab (Cornell University), and the oxalate oxidase was donated from Dr. Alien's lab (Texas Tech. University). These building blocks are being put together with Bill's genes in various combinations to make new gene constructs for use in American chestnut.

Transformation is when Chuck's team inserts Bill's gene into juvenile embryos. Our field workers bring him embryos when they have barely started growing (roughly a month after pollination). At this stage the tiny embryos can be extracted from the developing nut, grown in test tubes, multiplied into many thousands of new embryos. They can then be bombarded with million's of copies of Bill's new genes. With thousands of tiny targets, and millions of bullets, there is a good chance of hitting at least a few.

Chuck and his team then spend many months sorting out the hits (transgenetic) from the background of non-transformed embryos. They then begin the painstaking process of regenerating the tiny transgenetic embryos back into whole plants. In the meantime, Sharon Bickle, the newly appointed lab manager in Chuck's lab, is improving the rooting and acclimatization methods. She has experiments running at each step to increase the final survival rate and cut production time. Right now she has seven plants fully acclimatized and growing well in the greenhouse. Once she has some transgenetic shoots to work with, she expects no problems in converting them into whole plants ready for the field. Sharon has tested more than 30 different soil mixes to find one that will retain enough moisture and nutrients to grow vigorous plants, but also drain well enough to prevent the delicate chestnut roots from rotting away. Sharon and Seth LaPierre, an undergraduate student working in the lab this spring, have finished the laboratory analysis of the potting mixes and are now testing the best mixes with chestnut plantlets. You will see the results of this research in a poster at the next annual meeting in Frost Valley.

Bill's lab is also working on some important steps after transformation. The ultimate question is "are the transgenetic chestnuts blight resistant"? The standard test procedure for blight resistance is to grow plants for several years in the field and then poke a small hole in the bark and inject some of the chestnut blight fungus. Bill's team has been working on two quick tests. The first is to use much smaller plants growing in pots in the greenhouse. Bill found that he could make a tiny knife cut in the stem smaller than a pencil, inject less than a drop of fungal tissue, and produce blight. He tested resistant Chinese chestnuts and susceptible American chestnuts and got a clear difference. The Chinese chestnuts develop small cankers, but quickly callus over and continue to grow. The American chestnut seedlings develop cankers that, within a few weeks, girdle and kill the stem. This response looks very much like what happens to large trees in the field.

An even earlier bioassay takes place in a petri dish. While growing in culture Chuck's embryos often produce lumps of cells called callus. These lumps are useless to him because they can never be grown back into whole plants. Dr. Jun Wang, a visiting scholar from China working in Bill's lab, decided these "useless" lumps might be able to tell us something about blight resistance. He gathered similar callus lumps from Chinese chestnuts, hybrids from American and Chinese chestnuts, from susceptible American chestnuts, and from transgenetic cell lines and placed a tiny piece of fungi on the centre of each. Jun could measure the level of resistance in each, by how fast the fungus grew over the surface of the callus tissue. It grew the slowest over the highly resistant Chinese chestnut tissue, faster over the intermediate resistant hybrid tissue, and fastest over the susceptible American chestnut tissue. The good news is that the transgenetic American chestnut tissue containing the peptide antibiotic gene showed the slowest average growth of the fungus and therefore might be at least as resistant as the Chinese chestnut. The study needs to be repeated several more times to make sure it works every time, but if it works out, it will let the Syracuse team make a first check for blight resistance before the trees even leave the lab.

With all the new gene vectors being tested, and the rooting and acclimatization research ongoing, it is promising to be another interesting year that will bring us closer to a blight free American chestnut
Reprinted with permission of Stan and Arlene Wirsig, New York chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation 3747 River Rd. Youngstown NY 14174

Presidents Message

As I write this on June 2, it appears that the 1999 growing season is certainly off to a warm start. Moisture levels could certainly be better, but hopefully the rains will come. Over the years SONG has accumulated a significant bank account, and therefore a question that often comes up is, "What should SONG be doing with some of its funds?" The most frequent answer that comes up usually has something to do with research. I've heard various ideas, and I'd like to share a few with you.

  1. Pesticide Registrations: For members who are trying to grow nuts for profit, pesticides are a necessary part of the equation. There are a few chemicals registered for walnut and hazelnut, but virtually none for chestnut, heartnut, and pecan.
  2. Cultivar Trials: This is essentially what is now being done at the Simcoe Research Station.
  3. Develop Standards for Nutrient Requirements: The fruit industry has developed nutrient recommendations based on leaf analysis for all of the popular cultivars, but as far as the nut crops are concerned there are no benchmarks established. Tissue testing of specific cultivars, probably along with soil tests, crop analysis, etc., would have to be done at various locations.
  4. Machinery Experiments: Some nut crops, especially heartnut, require unique machinery for processing etc., and various ideas would have to be tried.
  5. Feasibility Studies: An independent study could be done to see what the problems, costs, and potential rewards there are for establishing a specific nut crop industry. Marketing could also fall under this category.

These are just a few of I'm sure many ideas out there, but perhaps this will generate some discussion at future meetings. Another question that often comes up is, "Should we be concentrating our research on one specific variety such as chestnut or heartnut, or maybe walnut, hazel ,or pecan?" It probably boils down to economics, but it needs to be considered before spending money on research.

Anyway, these are just some things to think about as we work in our orchards this summer.
Paul McCully

The Canadian Forest Service
The Forest Service and how it relates to SONG as individuals and as a group.

Background: In 1997, representatives from all levels of government (federal, provincial, municipal), private woodlot owners, industry, Aboriginal peoples, and other forest stakeholders came together to develop the 1998-2003 National Forest Strategy. The purpose of the strategy is to ensure that Canada's forests are managed in a manner which is sustainable from a social, cultural, ecological and economic perspective. In all, one hundred and twenty-one commitments were made to improve forest management in Canada. Twelve of these commitments refer specifically to the management of private woodlots.

Commitment 8.7 of the strategy states that: "We will increase the environmental, economic, social and cultural benefits derived from woodlots by identifying private woodlot research needs, undertaking relevant research and establishing mechanisms through which new knowledge can be transferred to woodlot owners".

Note: Everyone who contributed to the drafting of the National Forest Strategy is represented by the term "we". As the largest forest research organization in the country, the Canadian Forest Service was chosen to lead the development of this initiative.

Many of you may not be familiar with the Canadian Forest Service and its activities. For general background, the Canadian Forest Service is a federal organization mandated "to promote the sustainable development of Canada's forests and competitiveness of the Canadian forest sector for the well-being of present and future generations of Canadians." Underpinning this mandate is a requirement for relevant and timely forest research. To satisfy this requirement, the Canadian Forest Service conducts basic and applied research in a number of different areas.

How Does this Relate to the Society of Ontario Nut Growers (SONG)? As nut growers, each of you is a private woodlot owner. While the Canadian Forest Service leads the development of Commitment 8.7, fulfilling the goals of that initiative will require extensive input from private woodlot owners. We need your input, and your experience to make it work!

There are numerous private woodlot organizations which should, and will be consulted through this process. SONG is a logical place to start because of the leadership role that it has taken to promote forest research. Objective number two of SONG's charter states that SONG will "promote scientific research in the breeding and culture of nut bearing plants suited to Ontario conditions".

The Canadian Forest Service, through it's mandate and research infrastructure has the capacity to support this general objective. Let's work together.
Bradley S. Henry Client Relations Officer Canadian Forest Service 580 Booth Street, Ottawa KlA OE4

Provided by SONG. Feel free to copy with a credit.