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M. Taylor Perkins, Anna Claire Robinson, Martin L. Cipollini and J. Hill Craddock

Phytophthora cinnamomi Rands, the causal pathogen of phytophthora root rot (PRR) of chestnut, is one of the main obstacles to growth of american chestnut [Castanea dentata (Marsh.) Bork.] in the southern part of its distribution. To facilitate introgression of PRR resistance of chinese chestnut (C. mollissima Blume) into a C. dentata genetic background, we assessed the disease resistance of 10 interspecific hybrid families derived from potentially resistant C. mollissima cultivars. Hybrid progeny were inoculated with P. cinnamomi in the nursery and assessed for root lesion severity after 1 year of growth. Asymptomatic plants were transplanted to a P. cinnamomi-positive orchard and evaluated for survival midway through the following growing season. During the nursery experiment, 8 of 10 hybrid families were not significantly different from susceptible C. dentata controls for average disease resistance scores. However, multiple asymptomatic individuals were identified in each of the eight families. Two of the 10 hybrid families were not significantly different from the resistant C. mollissima and C. henryi controls. In the P. cinnamomi-positive orchard, the prescreened hybrid families displayed a greater proportion of survivors than backcross families that had not been prescreened for P. cinnamomi resistance. Hybrid plants that have survived 2 years of growth in P. cinnamomi-infested potting media and soils represent an important step toward the production of genetically diverse chestnut populations in the southeastern United States that combine the PRR resistance of C. mollissima with the morphology and local adaptation of C. dentata.