Chestnuts have been for centuries a valuable resource for the survival of the population living in many areas of Asia, South Europe, North Africa and of most countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. The nuts of Castanea sativa in Europe and of C.mollissima and C. crenata in Asia, were "daily bread" and dried, store food for the whole year. The trees furnished fuelwood, building timber and wood products for many crafts. In North America C. dentata, a forest giant, was a dominant species in the broad-leaves forests before blight destroyed it.
At present, both European and Oriental chestnuts are no longer a source for subsistence but continue to play an important role in many agroforestry systems in food, timber and landscape strategies for the new millennium.
Many countries around the world have potential areas, where soil and climatic parameters could be appropriate for plantations.
East Asian production continues to increase and new orchards have been established in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand, due to high retail price for quality nuts and processed products.
To improve the cultivation and to maintain the existing agroforestry systems, many problems have to be solved, such as:
conservation of genetic diversity and the existing valuable germplasm;
obtention of new cultivars for superior nut and timber production, resistant to major pests and diseases;
improvement of the valuable propagation methods; and
control of ink disease, canker blight and major insects damaging the species.
The promotion of an Inventory of Chestnut Research, Germplasm and References, began in the first years of the activities of the FAO-CIHEAM INTERREGIONAL COOPERATIVE RESEARCH NETWORK ON NUTS and a wealth of information has been gathered from the most important Institutions worldwide involved in chestnut.
The Inventory presents the state-of-the-art of the research in progress, of the germplasm collected by different institutions and of the researchers involved in chestnut, with the aim of defining the constraints and possibilities of this resource and to join efforts to implement mutual cooperation.
Professor Giancarlo Bounous
FAO/CIHEAM Subnetwork Chestnut Liaison Officer