Producers compare notes on grafting

Published 9:28 am Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Nearly 50 people, mostly farmers, attended the vegetable and produce conference at the Tidewater Research Station in Suffolk. -- Stephen H. Cowles | Tidewater News


SUFFOLK—Josh Freeman, extension and research specialist from the Eastern Shore Agricultural Research and Extension Center, spoke about grafting during the recent “Vegetable Production and Variety Selection Updates” meeting.

Grafting, which Freeman described as one of his “research pets,” is the process of combining two plant species or varieties.

“Many preferable varieties don’t possess desired resistance to soil-borne pests. You’re making your own variety,” Freeman told about 50 attending the event at Tidewater Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Suffolk.

This, in turn, helps maintain seasonal productivity, improve environmental tolerance and control pests.

Freeman explained that a 45- to 60-degree angled cut is made in the rootstock and scion. The latter is a shoot from a plant used to attach to the host.

He said the splicing should be done at the two-leaf stage, and that rubber disposable clips are recommended. Further, Freeman repeatedly stressed that rootstocks should always be cut below the cotyledons. These are defined as the leaves of a plant embryo being the first to appear from a sprouting seed.

After grafting, light should be reduced and humidity increased for at least three days, then gradually increase the first and reduce the latter. Next, the spliced plants should be put in an 80-degree greenhouse for a week.

This enables the plants to “harden and acclimate before transplanting,” he said.

Freeman also emphasized “grafting small batches at first.”

“Great care should be taken to keep the graft junction above the soil line when transplanting,” he said. “If they’re too close, adventitious roots will form from the scion and root into the soil. This will likely lead to disease.”

Freeman said that commercially available grafted plants this spring are expected to cost about 75 cents, in contrast to about 12 cents if you do your own.

“I think this (grafting ) will catch on,” he said.

Southampton County Extension Agent Chris Drake followed with a discussion on pumpkin production.

He noted that heat, especially when night temperatures are at 80 degrees or higher, can be devastating to flower retention, while rainfall during the flowering period is essential. There are also issues with disease and weed control, high fertilizer prices and site selection.

Pumpkins should be grown in well-drained soil between mid-June through mid-July, Drake said.

The best variety for this area includes Jack Be Little and Munchkin for the minis; Iron Man, Prankster and Lil’ Ironsides for the smalls; Mystic Plus and Field Trip for pies; Magic Wand, Gladiator, Aladdin and Apollo for medium and large sizes; and Prizewinner and Big Max for giants. Others to consider are Lumina, Moonshine, Long Island Cheese, and Blue Hubbard.

Drake grows Mystic Plus, Gladiator, Aladdin and Apollo.