Q: I’m in the planning phase of starting a large Dunstan chestnut orchard. Is there anyone to help me in the process? One issue I need to address is irrigation.
A: Few people alive remember the billions of American chestnut trees that were wiped out by chestnut blight in a few decades after 1909. The nuts were delicious to humans and wildlife, the wood was valuable for construction and furniture, and the tree supported a tremendous ecological niche. The American Chestnut Foundation (acf.org) is working to cross American chestnut with other chestnut species with the goal of producing genetically diverse, nearly-pure American chestnut stock. The blight resistant ’Dunstan’ chestnut is one result of their efforts. The American Chestnut Cooperators’ Foundation (accf-online.org) is cross-breeding surviving American chestnut trees to each other to bring about disease resistance. Researchers at the State University of New York have developed a disease resistant American chestnut by genetic modification, inserting a wheat gene that defeats the chestnut blight fungus. Like any GM organism, these trees are tightly regulated and will not be on the commercial market anytime soon.
Neither the Georgia Department of Agriculture nor the University of Georgia have developed much information to assist people who want to grow chestnuts. But there is considerable research on growing pecans in Georgia. Here is a link to great information on using drip irrigation on pecan trees: https://secure.caes.uga.edu/extension/publications/files/pdf/B%20936_2.PDF.