About Badgersett Hybrid Chestnuts - 1
Badgersett Hybrid Chestnuts are different from all other hybrids available elsewhere. Our goal here has been to produce a domesticated chestnut tree with good, multi-purpose characteristics. Before reading further, please make sure you've read What is a Chestnut?
What Is A Hybrid Chestnut?
Hybrid chestnuts are not similar to hybrid corn. Without getting into too much detail, hybrid corn is all one species, from parental lines carefully bred to be complementary to each other so the seed shows "hybrid vigor", ie, the seedling generation is more vigorous than either parent. Hybrid chestnuts are crosses between species of the first or later generations, and there is no guarantee or even expectation of "hybrid vigor". Species are crossed for a variety of reasons, usually to combine (hopefully) outstanding characteristics of each parent species in the offspring. Most commonly, Chinese chestnut has been crossed with American chestnut in the hope of finding seedlings that have the large nut size and blight resistance of the Chinese, and the greater cold hardiness and possibly "timber-type" of the American. This sounds easy but isn't.
How Are Badgersett Hybrid Chestnuts Different?
Badgersett hybrid chestnuts are different from all other hybrids available elsewhere in a number of ways. Our goal here has been to produce a domesticated chestnut tree with good, multi-purpose characteristics. We do not breed here to restore the wild American timber tree; that work is being done by The American Chestnut Foundation.
We use the crossing between species specifically to create genotypes impossible to find in the wild. For example, a tree which starts to produce nuts in the forest when it is 2 years old will die, because it has to compete with neighbors which are putting all their energy into growing up into the forest canopy. Trees putting energy into nuts too soon will be shaded out and killed. Our hybrids are intended to be closer to a Holstein cow—compared to pure species of chestnut, which might be more like a wild bison—in terms of milk production and tractability. Many of them will produce nuts in 3 years, and we continue to breed them for even earlier production. Experimentally, we have species hybrids which produce seed within 3 months, at the theoretical limit. (Some Seguin chestnuts will do this without crossing, but we have 2 such breeding lines with no Seguin in them.)
We started with hybrids from several amateur breeding projects (so we wouldn't have to start from scratch), and our lines are now combinations of Douglass, Gordon, Gellatly, Szego, Clapper, and Perry hybrids, besides crosses entirely our own. Our hybrids now contain American and Chinese species most frequently, with varying amounts of Japanese, European, and Seguin chestnut. At this point, it makes no sense to try to ascribe a species origin or even basic similarity to our plants. They are, in fact, domestic chestnut, selected and bred for
- precocity: many will bear nuts in 3 years, some in 2, almost all by 5.
- cold hardiness: our trees have withstood -39°F. Winters here are severe, Great Plains style—sunny, windy, frigid and very hard on trees.
- nut crop size: still increasing
- nut size, quality: our best are as good as any, anywhere
- tree vigor
- tree health
Next: More About Hybrid Chestnuts: chestnut blight resistance, growth requirements, problems