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East Texas Ag News: Grafting and Budding Fruit and Nut Trees

A peach growing on a peach tree
A peach growing on a peach tree
Published: Apr. 7, 2022 at 4:46 PM CDT
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ANGELINA COUNTY, Texas (KLTV) - One of the gardening skills that tend to be forgotten in this day and time is grafting and budding.

Grafting and budding are horticultural techniques used to join parts from two or more plants so that they appear to grow as a single plant. In grafting, the upper part (scion) of one plant grows on the root system (rootstock) of another plant. In the budding process, a bud is taken from one plant and grown on another.

Although budding is considered a modern art and science, grafting is not new. The practice of grafting can be traced back as far as 4,000 years ago.   As early as 2,000 years ago, people recognized the incompatibility problems that may occur when grafting olives and other fruiting trees.

Since grafting and budding are vegetative methods of propagation, the new plant that grows from the scion or bud will be exactly like the plant it came from. These methods of plant reproduction are usually chosen because cuttings from the desired plant root poorly (or not at all). Also, these methods give the plant a certain characteristic of the rootstock - for example, hardiness, drought tolerance, or disease resistance.

Since both methods require knowledge and skill to accomplish, only a few avid gardeners attempt it.  In truth, a quality understanding of the skill can be learned in a short time and put to use in your own yard the next day

Varieties within a species can usually be grafted or budded interchangeably. For example, Pink dogwood can be budded or grafted onto White Flowering dogwood rootstock, pecan to hickory, a new pear variety onto an old pear tree, but a dogwood cannot be grafted or budded onto pear.

Grafting and budding can be performed at specific times when weather conditions and the stage of plant growth are both optimum. The timing depends on the species and the technique used. For example, conditions are usually satisfactory in June for budding peaches and folks around these parts know you can graft pecans when “the bark slips” or when the sap begins its flow in the spring.

There are several reasons to graft or bud a tree.  The most popular reason is to change varieties or cultivars. An older established fruit tree may become obsolete as a newer variety or cultivar is developed. The newer varieties may offer improved insect or disease resistance, better drought tolerance, or higher yields. As long as the scion is compatible with the rootstock, the older tree may be top worked using the improved variety or cultivar.

Other reasons include optimizing cross-pollination and pollination, take advantage of particular rootstocks, repair damaged plants, or to decrease the time it takes to grow a new variety.

For those who wish to learn how to graft and bud, the Angelina County Extension office is offering a Grafting Workshop on Tuesday, April 19 from noon to 1 pm.  Truman Lamb, Agricultural County Agent from Anderson County, will be the featured speaker.  Lamb brings an easy style of teaching and will demonstrate his favorite method of grafting.  Information on several other methods will be given out.

There is no fee. For more information call 936-634-6414 or email cw-sims@tamu.edu.

Cary Sims is the County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Angelina County. His email address is cw-sims@tamu.edu.

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