I did some conifer grafting today and learned quite a bit. Pictured are “Side Veneer” grafts. Grafting is the process of joining tissues of plants so that they grow together. In the top and bottom left photos you can see the exposed cambium layers of the rootstock (potted) and scion (cutting that is being grafted). These are aligned together and sealed with bands so that they will begin growing together. This is particularly advantageous for plants that are difficult to propagate via seeds or vegetative cuttings. By grafting onto a rootstock, you can improve the vigor, disease resistance, and growth habit of the scion plant. I look forward to applying this knowledge to grafting tomatoes, willows, and fruit trees in the near future!
I went out and had a look at (and taste of) some of fruits on the local wild seedling apple trees today.
These two were real standouts from the mere ten trees I looked at today: they are visually disease-free, beautiful, sweet, and crispy fruits, from beautiful trees that are growing well in my local biome. The one on the left tastes and looks kind of like a Gravenstein, and the one on the right tastes like a Honeycrisp.
I’m going to flag them with a strip of fabric so I can grab some scion wood from them when they go dormant in Winter, and graft them into one of my trees.
In the meantime, I’ll go out with my two best friends (the telescopic fruit picker, and my bike) and pick some fruit from the hundreds of seedling trees in the area. If they are terrible for eating, they’ll make fine juice, ciders, pies, dried snacks, preserves, and pectin!
I think it’s safe to say I’m one of the only people here who would bother harvesting the wild fruit. It’s just me (the weird Canadian) and the Thai ladies fishing for perch that are actually taking advantage of the local natural abundance every day. I don’t really feel that bad picking a few kilos of fruit, since it will be wasp food if I don’t!
What we call ‘cultivars’ of fruiting trees in horticulture are usually clones of a single seedling. Take the ‘Gala’ apple: it was a single tree planted from seed in the 1930s. This one tree yielded such desirable fruit, that since the 1930s, pieces of it can been kept alive as ‘scions’ and grafted to ‘rootstocks,’ which are seedling trees, or rooted clones. The original ‘Gala’ apple tree seedling is long dead, but there are pieces of this tree still growing all over the world, yielding the same fruit.
In the orchard business, this means producing trees with predictable dimensions, fruiting style, branching habits, harvest dates, yield, and levels of disease resistance. Clones are a much less risky investment than seedlings, which can vary widely. Clones have a name and ‘brand’ that is established and likely to find a reliable marketplace.
In terms of mass-production of food, this practice of grafting trees produces fruit of a reliable size, shape, texture, and flavour, which makes them easily transportable and marketable. Consumers prefer to know a ‘name’ of an apple they like, as opposed to examining or reading about the characteristics and uses of a type of fruit, and will consistently purchase fruit from a favourite well-branded cultivar.
The importance of the name of a new apple cultivar in marketing is
evident and supported by research at Cornell, where exciting names led
consumers to spend more money for the same variety with a “generic” or
non-exciting name (Rickard et al., 2011). Willingness-to-pay auctions
are indicating traits of interest to consumers willing to pay a premium,
and they are often variety dependent. In addition, the response from
buyers is also being examined relative to new varieties and fruit size
premiums (Carew et al., 2012). [x]
I’m not saying this industrialised side to it is good, but it’s just how fruit production has become.
I graft my trees with scion wood that I have traded or purchased in order to get a wide variety of high-quality fruit, and so in the future, I can cross high-quality cultivars with each other and plant seeds. My hobby – and the main subject of the site – is planting from seed. In that respect, I like to get seed from ‘pedigree’ parents, because there is so much written about these trees.
Those pieces of wood – scion wood – are from other cloned trees: some of the scions I worked with this year are from trees that were planted in the 1700s, but are kept perpetually alive today by being grafted.