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Grafting Plants in South Africa

Grafting Plants: Developments and Research to the Benefit of Vegetable Farmers in South Africa

Grafting plants may seem like a modern practice, but the origin can be traced back as far as Ancient China and many of the ancient civilisations of the Middle East. This also means that humans have had a lot of time to develop and perfect this practice.


What Grafting Entails

The process entails the fusion of the parts of two or more plants to have them grow as a single plant with specific desired characteristics. One of the best-established methods is the vegetative technique whereby the scion of one plant is attached to the rootstock of another plant. The scion consists of the shoot and some leaves and the rootstock is the lower part of a plant’s stem with its roots.

The rootstock of a plant is, for example, selected for a strong and vigorous root system while the scion of another plant is selected because of the plant’s quality fruits or the high yield ability of the plant. In this way, the desired characteristics of both plants are then present in the single plant. Although the two parts become a single plant, the lower part (rootstock) and the upper part (scion) retain their unique characteristics.

Vegetable Plant Grafting for Commercial Purposes Traced Back to Asia

Although the grafting of trees is an ancient practice, the need for more control over the desired characteristics of vegetables eventually led to the grafting of the vegetable plants for better yields in commercial farming.

Vegetable crop farming is not without challenges. Soil-borne diseases and plant sensitivity to weather conditions have made it difficult for farmers to get high yields with certain types of vegetables. Grafting made it possible to get traits, such as higher tolerance to certain soil-borne diseases.

The practice for commercial farming purposes only gained momentum after the publication of a scientific study in Japan on the results of grafting watermelon scions onto squash rootstock. This was an effort to create watermelons that would be more tolerant to diseases, such as fusarium and would deliver higher yields. The results of the study were promising enough to inspire farmers across countries with the likes of Korea and China to investigate the potential of propagating crops from grafted seedlings.

Fusarium is only one of many biotic conditions that affect vegetable and fruit production. Grafted vegetables have been reported to have better tolerance for many biotic and environmental stress conditions. With the ability to improve the taste, tolerance to certain diseases, ability to uptake more nutrients because of better rooting, and high-yield capacity of vegetable crops, grafting is certainly beneficial in ensuring crop successes for commercial farmers. With such characteristics, fewer chemicals need to be used against diseases, helping to reduce the environmental impact of vegetable crop farming for commercial purposes.

Farmers also do not have to clear as much land as before to grow watermelons year after year. Current research by agronomists, botanists, and related scientists is focused on the improvement of yield capacity without affecting the quality of the fruits from the plants. Research is also focused on gaining better insight as to which scions and rootstock are compatible and how to ensure better tolerance for a wider spectrum of soil-borne diseases.

It has been reported that close taxonomical relation between plants provides for more success potential with grafting. Commercial farmers benefit from the research in improvements in grafting methods, the selection of plants to combine, and more help to improve crop tolerance for soil-borne diseases. With lower levels of plant losses due to soil-borne diseases, farmers are able to increase their income and profit-generating capacity.

Diseases, such as fusarium in crops have received a lot of attention, in addition to methods for controlling nematodes that cause root knot.

Where to Buy Grafted Seedlings in South Africa

Hishtil SA is one of the leading nurseries and on the forefront of grafting for commercial farming purposes. Farmers across South Africa can order disease- and pest-free grafted plants from Hishtil SA for delivery to their farms. The seedlings are chemically treated before delivery, ensuring the protection of the plants against pests and diseases until the farmer can start with their normal chemical treatment plan.