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Dr. Martin Cipollini addresses former President Jimmy Carter at Carter Center chestnut tree dedication.

CAPTION: Dr. Martin Cipollini addresses former President Jimmy Carter and others at the Carter Center’s chestnut tree orchard dedication.

President Jimmy Carter at dedication.Dana Professor of Biology Martin Cipollini has cultivated quite the professional network in his quest to restore the American chestnut tree to its former glory. A year ago, we told you about his radio appearance with Rolling Stones keyboardist and environmental activist Chuck Leavell. Now he’s at it again, this time addressing an audience that included former President Jimmy Carter at the dedication of a new chestnut orchard on the grounds of the Carter Center in Atlanta. The longtime Berry professor was speaking in his role as scientific coordinator of the Georgia Chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation.

A dominant species in American forests prior to a devastating blight in the early 20th century, the chestnuts are making a comeback thanks to the efforts of TACF, which has planted more than 500 orchards from Maine to Alabama. Cipollini and his students have coordinated the planting of more than 7,000 American-Chinese hybrids at approximately 200 sites in Georgia alone, including several orchards at Berry that produce seedlings for the disease-resistance breeding program.

“For more than a decade, Berry has been the center of the chestnut restoration project in Georgia,” Cipollini explained. “Students have been invaluable to our success. Their efforts have included helping with tree breeding, harvesting, planting, and orchard maintenance tasks at Berry and at numerous other sites throughout Georgia.”

By student writer Katherine Edmonds

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Martin CipolliniDr. Martin Cipollini recently shared the Georgia Public Broadcasting airwaves with Rolling Stones keyboardist and environmental activist Chuck Leavell as part of a radio segment spotlighting efforts to restore the American chestnut tree. Cipollini has been working with The American Chestnut Foundation since 2004, but his interest in the threatened species dates to childhood.

“I grew up in a rural area, and when my father and I found chestnut trees out in the woods, he always told me about the fungal blight which nearly destroyed the species in the early 20th century,” the Berry professor explained. “We were never able to get those trees to survive long enough to produce nuts. So when I later learned The American Chestnut Foundation had made significant progress in helping to bring the trees back, I wanted to be involved.”

As scientific coordinator for TACF’s Georgia chapter, Cipollini has established several orchards containing potentially blight-resistant American/Chinese chestnut hybrids on the Berry campus and has also supervised the planting of more than 6,500 hybrid trees statewide, including a small orchard at The Carter Center. He credits Berry’s expansive campus and enthusiastic student assistants with helping to propel these efforts forward and hopes that increased public awareness and involvement will allow even more to be accomplished in the future.

“Our goal is to plant a minimum of 12,000 trees statewide in the next 10 years,” Cipollini said of his work with the TACF Georgia chapter. “It’s going to take a lot of money and effort, but what we have is growing, and we’ve got to keep looking ahead to find ways to help it keep growing.”

By Maxine Donnelly, philanthropic communications senior writer

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