Wednesday, April 09, 2008

News---Historic Orchard Replanted in the GNMP

Gettysburg Battlefield Peach Orchard Replanted, Evening Sun, April 8, 2008

Dave Stull, right, and Justin Stone, both of Randy's Lawncare, plant peach trees in the Peach Orchard in the Gettysburg National Military Park on Monday afternoon. (photo: Evening Sun)

The National Park Service recently started planting peach trees along Wheatfield and Emmitsburg roads, after removing ailing trees from the area about two years ago. The peach orchard is one of the most significant spots of the battlefield. Union Gen. Daniel Sickles ordered his troop line to move forward from near Little Round Top to the orchard on the Emmitsburg Road, creating a hard-to-defend salient for Confederate forces to focus their attack.

This "grave mistake" by Sickles led to heavy fighting in the orchard , according to park Superintendent John Latschar, and "lots of casualties, lots of heroism." The salient collapsed and almost brought doom for the entire Union line. Already past their prime at 25 years old, the uprooted trees in the orchard had been infected by the Tomato Ringspot virus, according to John Halbrendt, associate professor of plant pathology for the Pennsylvania State University. The Penn State Cooperative Extension of Adams County helped with identifying the peach orchard problems.

The virus is carried by broad-leafed weeds, such as dandelions, which spread the disease through their seeds. Nematodes, microscopic worms in the soil, can feed on the roots of these weeds and pass it to peach trees, on whose roots they also feed. Since the trees were removed two years ago, the soil has been treated to prevent infected nematodes from infecting new trees.

The peach orchard removal and replanting is part of the park service's continuing battlefield rehabilitation program, which includes removing more than 500 acres of trees, building fences and repairing and recreating historic pathways.

Cindy Copp a biological science technician for the Gettysburg National Military park puts up signs around the Peach Orchard to protect the newly planted trees. (photo: Evening Sun)

CWL: CWL applauds GNMP's management plan for eliminating the deer, putting fences on the historic farms, restoring the orchards, and eliminating excessive trees and brush from the battlefield. Approximately 36 farms were occupied by the armies during the battle; several were totally destroyed and the rest were made desolate. All efforts to return the historic farms to the GNMP are welcomed by CWL.

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