You may never have imagined yourself being able to transplant an organ from one plant to another and have it grow. With apologies to the medical profession, introducing yourself to the world of budding and grafting will allow you to do just that.
The term that covers all of these operations is graftage. Specialty terms like budding mean you are going to transplant one bud to the other organism. Grafting usually involves the transfer of several buds attached to one twig.
There are several other types of grafting. Specialty grafts include root grafts, side grafts, veneer grafts and approach grafts. These are usually done on plants that are hard to graft in other ways.
There are three terms that you must understand to be successful. The scion is the cultivar or variety that you want to grow. If you are trying to create a Honey Crisp apple you would graft a Honey Crisp start onto the rootstock.
The rootstock is the underneath part of the tree. In fruit trees it is usually a size-controlling rootstock. Other reasons for using a specialty rootstock is to provide disease or insect resistance, better nutrient absorption, tolerance for salty or alkaline soils or other problems.
The third term is the cambium layer. This is the layer of rapidly dividing cells that in a woody plant is between the wood and the bark of the tree. The cambium layer on the scion must match the cambium layer on the rootstock if your organ transplant is to be successful.
The most common cause of grafting failures occur because cambium layers are not matched properly or they are allowed to dry out in the grafting process. Once the cells dry, they die and a successful graft is not possible.
Grafting is a type of cloning. While cloning animals is a new process that is still somewhat controversial, plants have been cloned for thousands of years.
All commercial fruit trees, most named ornamental trees, bulbs, many perennials and even some annuals are now cloned by vegetative propagation.
A newer technique that is becoming more popular is grafting heirloom tomatoes onto a disease resistant rootstock. Certain soil-borne diseases including Verticillium and Fusarium wilt have no practical controls except for using resistant varieties.
Almost all heirloom tomatoes are highly susceptible to these diseases. By grafting the heirloom variety onto the modern common disease resistant rootstock you can grow these in soil that is infested with the diseases.
In spite of the fact that you are combining two different plants together, they both retain their individual identities. That is because they are clones, meaning that they are exact duplicates of the parent plant. Obtaining a clone or an exact duplicate of a plant is sometimes very difficult without these means. For example, planting a seed of an apple cultivar may have only a one in a million chance of being an exact duplicate of the parent.
If you would like to preserve an old cultivar of the tree that is growing on your property or grandpa's farm, you must collect the bud wood right now. Look for vigorous stems or water sprouts that grew last year. These will have strong vegetative buds to transfer to the rootstock.
Grafting requires a dormant scion and an actively growing rootstock. After collecting your bud wood, cut it to convenient lengths and label them according to cultivar. Put these in a plastic bag and store them in the refrigerator until you are ready to graft.
You must always graft like trees to like trees. That means graft apples on the apples, pears on the pears and other related trees onto similar trees.
The explanation that I have given here sounds simple. It is true that the technique is simple but the actual surgery is not. Just like you would not want the doctor to do an organ transplant without sufficient practice and observation, you must be prepared to do the same.
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