What is Grafting and How to Do it?
Grafting is an old cultural technique that has been practiced since the early 1900s in Japan, Asian countries and in the Middle East. It wasn’t common in America until recently people became aware of the benefits.
Grafting is as fancy a procedure as it sounds – and difficult, too. You need to put extra effort to grow grafted plants. Let’s break it down!
What is Grafting?
Grafting is the process of combining two different plants with the intention to grow a stronger variety, taking the good features of both. For that, you need to grow two different plants at the same time – one to use for its root system or the rootstock, and the other for the fruits you want to harvest, or the scion.
Usually, the rootstock variety is chosen for its vigorous root system and disease resistance. It may endure severe climate changes and keep healthy and strong against pests.
The scion has better fruit quality but is capricious, unstable to climate change and prone to soilborne diseases.
How to do grafting?
You will need two healthy plants of a similar size, each with two sets of leaves. Cut the leaves, leaving only the stems. Attach the scion stem to the rootstock with something that will hold them together, like a clip. Growing together, the stems will soon become one and will start giving fruit from the grafted one. This is the first stage of the process.
Then, to ensure the early maturing of the fruits, you need to put the new plants under a tunnel. Tunnel conditions ensure a moist and warm environment that will boost the maturing process.
What are the benefits?
Combining the stronger features of both varieties to achieve higher quality and outstanding yield will benefit to the grower, making him the first to market.
Planting in tunnels will make the plants more adaptable to bad weather conditions and will prolong the harvest season since the process well before the regular harvesting season.
We planted grafted tomatoes during our participation at the Expo Agroalimentaria in Mexico this year. The results are outstanding.
What are the disadvantages?
This method is costly to the small grower. The expenses begin with buying twice the seeds you need for a normal planting season, as well as some specific tools you will need – like root media, seedling containers, and nutrients. You also need to add in the cost for optimizing the growing conditions for the longer seedling process.
High cost often discourages growers, even taking into consideration the benefits of better yield and reduction of pest control costs.
Grafting isn’t new and, as every complicated method, requires more attention, knowledge, and finances. It is up to you to decide whether this might be a winning technique or something that is simply not worth the risk.
If you are a small producer, experiment to see if this is a good technique for you.
If you live in a place with continuous bad weather or challenging environment, you should definitely give grafting a go and improve results.