Grafting is the method of getting a branch or bud from a mature tree and joining it with the stem of a young plant, belonging to the same or closely related plant species. It is a method of plant propagation widely used in agriculture and horticulture where the tissues of one plant are fused with those of another to create another plant.
Grafting is mostly used for the propagation of trees and shrubs grown commercially. In most cases, one plant is selected for its roots, and this is called the stock. The other plant is selected for its stems, leaves, flowers, or fruits and is called the scion.
The scion contains the desired genes to be duplicated in future growth by the plant. Creating successful crossbreeds of similar plants can be very rewarding, as a farmer can have mangoes and oranges on one stem.
For successful grafting to take place, the vascular cambium tissues of the stock and scion plants must be placed in contact with each other. It requires that a vascular connection take place between the two tissues.
Tools for grafting
- Two compatible fruit tree twigs
- Grafting tape
- Grafting wax
- Cellophane or plastic bag
- Rubber bands
- Sharp knife
Steps to successful grafting
Cut two twigs at a 45 degree angle to each other from compatible fruit tree species to form a close bond.
Place twigs together allowing the small band of cells called the cambium (just under the bark layer) to match up as closely as possible. Secure the two twigs together using a commercially available grafting tape. Rubber electrical tape or duct tape may also be used. Place a rubber band around the grafting site firmly but not too tightly. Let the twigs fuse over two to three weeks for successful buds.
Tips on grafting
- Cut fruit tree twigs, called scions, in late November through late December when the plant is at its most dormant.
- The scion should be about the thickness of a pencil or slightly bigger and about six to eight inches long.
- Store cut scions in a refrigerator in plastic zipper bags. When stored properly, these twigs can be stored for many months.
- Once the graft starts to grow, do not cut back branches during the first season.
- Wrap your thumb with a protective layer of tape or wear a glove while cutting grafts.
- Label each scion by type and variety. Keep a written record of the grafting.
- Wrap the grafting site with cellophane or a loose plastic bag should the temperature begin to drop below 65 degrees F.
- Both scion and rootstock cambiums must meet precisely for a graft to survive.
- Avoid any exposure of the graft site to wind, rain, insects or animals.
Advantages of grafting
Disease resistance. Some trees end up developing more resistance to diseases and adverse conditions than other trees. This disease resistance and hardness is transferred from the rootstock (the plant being grafted onto) to the scion (the plant being propagated).
Trees that have been grafted reach maturity sooner than trees that weren’t grafted, leading to blooming flowers and fruit much earlier.
Grafting is more labour intensive, increasing labour costs. But grafting is cheaper overall because the cost of equipment is lower than with growing a plant from a seed.
Much of the quality found in the fruit, leaves and flower are retained, while these qualities are sometimes lost in plants that are grown from a seed.
Grafting can be used to make plants larger or smaller than what they were meant to be genetically.