In commercial fruit cultivation, particular in the cultivation of apples, grafted fruit trees are the norm rather than the exception. Grafting is a technique commonly used in horticulture and agriculture, which helps increase yield and also improves tolerance of the tree to climatic extremes.
Some cultivars will not grow from seed and require grafting or top working to actually produce the fruit trees of that seed. Grafting is a name given to a variety of different techniques used to insert the tissue of one plant into another.
The aim is to unite two sets of vascular plant tissues to produce certain results. The vascular connection needs to take place and the tissue needs to be kept alive until such time as the graft forms a joint between the two sets of plant tissue; usually a few weeks.
Benefits of Grafting
Improving the yield is one of the main benefits of grafting. Dwarfing of a tree can be induced by grafting so that more trees can be planted more densely in a given area. Dwarfing of trees can increase fruit yield, cold tolerance and can also make for easier harvesting (due to smaller sized trees).
Grafting can help a tree start producing fruit earlier than it would in the natural course. Whereas most fruit trees may take 5 to 9 years to mature sufficiently to start bearing fruit, grafting can help to kick start fruiting in as little as 2 years. This is also true for hybrid breeding.
Proper pollination is another reason for using grafting. When the trunk or limb of a tree has been damaged in a way that it is in danger of being starved of nutrients, grafting can help to repair the tissue and reconnect them.
Grafting is also done for purely artistic or aesthetic purposes. Tree shaping, creating entry archways or bowers and other ornamental techniques can produce quite unique results. Gardeners and horticulturists may also display their gardening skill by creating a plant that produces both potatoes and tomatoes and creating other such curiosities.
There are various techniques used to produce different types of grafts for different goals. Cleft grafting is the most common type of grafting.
Plants that are difficult to join may be grafted by the Approach Technique by growing them very close together. The Budding Technique uses a single dormant bud which is bound in place and sealed to prevent it from drying. Other techniques include the Whip, Stub, Awl, and Veneer.