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Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 22, 2018

Horticulturist explains how to join two plants

By Andy Hallman, Ledger news editor | Apr 02, 2018
Photo by: ANDY HALLMAN/Ledger photo Commercial horticulture field specialist Patrick O’Malley shows the class how to wrap a plant’s roots so they don’t dry out while being grafted to another plant.

A commercial horticulture field specialist gave a program on grafting Thursday at the Jefferson County ISU Extension & Outreach Office.

The horticulture specialist was Patrick O’Malley of the Johnson County ISU Extension & Outreach Office. He explained that grafting is a technique whereby tissues of plants are joined allowing them to grow together as one. A person may wish to graft two different plants together to combine features of each. For instance, a person might want the fruit from one plant but the root system from another that’s best suited to their climate and soil.

O’Malley said that other reasons for grafting include reduced wait time for plants to bear fruit. This is because the top part of the grafted plant, the scion, was taken from a mature tree that physiologically “knows” that it is mature, and behaves like a mature stem, despite it now being part of a small, grafted plant. He mentioned that grafted plants produce more uniform fruit than plants grown from seed.

Horticulturists have found that apple trees produce fruit less efficiently as they grow. This is because a large share of the lower canopy is shielded from sunlight. That’s why using an orchard to grow many small apple trees will yield more fruit than growing fewer but larger trees.

O’Malley said grafting can be used to produce dwarf apple trees that grow to only 8 feet tall. In these dwarf trees, 98 percent of the canopy produces fruit, compared to only 70 percent in a 20-foot full-grown tree. Most apple trees in modern orchards are grafted onto dwarf root systems so they can be planted closer together and therefore yield more fruit per square foot.

O’Malley took the group of about 30 people into the activity building, where he demonstrated how to cut a stem to graft it onto a root system and how to wrap it so it doesn’t dry out. Participants grafted two fruit trees which they got to take home.

 

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