Grafting creates physical hybrids between seedlings of at least two varieties. The rootstock variety is used for its root system and traits and the scion variety is used for its shoot and fruit traits. Grafting is providing growers with an expanding list of key plant traits more rapidly and in different combinations than standard hybrid variety development. These traits include resistance to specific soilborne diseases (e.g., Fusarium, Verticillium) and the ability to overcome various abiotic stresses (e.g., salinity, drought, low fertility). Plant growth at low soil temperatures, improved fruit quality, and/or greater fruit holding ability on the vine may also be possible in specific cases. Among grafted crops, field and high tunnel acreage of tomato and watermelon are greatest, although interest in and acreage of grafted pepper, eggplant, cucumber, and melon are also rising.
Resources to help growers make the best use of grafting are also increasing and improving. The most important resource is growers who have experimented with grafted plants and share their experiences and views. Online resources (e.g., http://www.vegetablegrafting.org/) can also be useful. For example, one site (http://graftingtool.ifas.ufl.edu/) helps growers “run the numbers” on grafting’s potential impact on their bottom-line. That decision-support tool improves as information from farm-level tests of grafting is added.
Growers also ask how they can obtain grafted plants. The number of operations supplying Ohio and the U.S. (http://www.vegetablegrafting.org/resources/suppliers/) is rising. I have personal experience with the three suppliers listed below in alphabetical order. Contact them soon if you are interested in receiving grafted plants for use in 2021.
1. Banner Greenhouses (Nebo, NC; ph. 828-659-3335; https://www.bannergreenhouses.com/).
2. Re-Divined (Bainbridge, PA; ph. 717.286.7658; firstname.lastname@example.org; https://redivined.weebly.com/).
3. Tri-Hishtil (Mills River, NC; ph. 828.891.6004/828.620.5020 – Chris Furman; sales@Tri-Hishtil.com; http://www.trihishtil.com/).
Grafted plants can also be prepared by the same person or farm that uses them in the field or high tunnel. Many guides describing how to graft vegetables are available. The following are a small number of examples.
Please contact me if you need additional information.