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Grafting Plants in Vegetable Crop Farming

How Grafting Plants Has Changed Vegetable Crop Farming

Grafting plants is not a new technique. It has been used from ancient times to domesticate wild fruit trees for commercial farming practices.

The horticultural technique entails the fusion of two or more parts of different plants to have them grow as a new plant. However, each part retains its unique characteristics, and this is what makes grafting so useful for commercial farming purposes. With this technique, it is possible to get specific characteristics in different parts of one plant. The roots from one plant (called rootstock) and the stem and leaves of another (called scion) are used. In this way, it is possible to get stronger roots with tolerance to certain conditions while getting higher fruit yield or better-quality fruits.

The mentioned explanation is a simplified version of what the process entails. In reality, parts of more than two plants can be used. The specific technique of grafting also plays a role in the process while extensive research is done to determine which scions can work with which rootstock. It takes time to perfect a particular technique and to create a stable cultivar. It is for this reason that farmers do not perform grafting on vegetable plants. They rather purchase grafted seedlings from specialised nurseries where agronomists perform the grafting and growing of the seedlings. Grafted Melon Waterpoort - Grafting Plants The seedlings already contain all the desired characteristics for the particular vegetable plant. Buying grafted seedlings enables the farmer to get disease- and pest-free plugs, uniform in size and with uniform characteristics. A farmer may, for instance, want tomato plants with improved tolerance for certain soil borne diseases or want plants with more vigour. The seedlings grown from the grafting of specific plants already have the required characteristics. Instead of the farmer having to spend thousands to millions in research, facilities, setting up, expert teams, and carrying the risks of failure, he can focus on crop management because he gets superior plant stock from the specialised nurseries where all the grafting, research, and initial growth of the plugs take place.

It cannot be done using just any two plants. There must be sufficient similarities between them to minimise the risk of the scion being rejected by the rootstock. Although the two plants eventually grow as one, the rootstock retains its own DNA and the scion its own. It is essential to know which varieties can be used together and this is where the extensive research and practical testing at the specialised nurseries benefit commercial farmers.

Although fruit trees have been grafted for a very long time to get specific flavours, when it comes to grafted vegetables for commercial farming, it is still a relatively new field. Korea and other Asian countries have been on the forefront, but in South Africa, it is only now gaining ground as farmers realise the immense benefits and potential of growing vegetable crops from grafted seedlings.

Commercial crop farming is now possible from grafted tomato, cucumber, pepper, melon, and watermelon seedlings as available in bulk from the specialised nurseries. Growing crops from these seedlings enables the farmers to plant in soil, which they would have needed to rest for a year or more or would have needed to apply crop rotation. Higher fruit yields, better quality, uniformity in stand, and improved tolerance to certain soil, weather, and pest conditions are among the main reasons for choosing grafted seedlings.

More vegetables plants may, in the future, be grafted as research continues. However, farmers interested in buying grafted seedlings will be glad to know that the plugs are grown in special greenhouse facilities. They are protected against pests and diseases while they also receive optimal nutrition. With grafting done under the controlled conditions, farmers also benefit from the knowing that they can expect specific traits in the plugs they receive.

The plugs receive their first chemical treatments at the nursery before delivery to the farmer. This gives the farmer plugs already protected against pests and diseases. Starting with healthy stock helps to reduce the risk of crop failure. The period between transfer of the seedlings to the soil and harvesting is shorter than had the farmer grown the crop from direct seeding. This helps to save on irrigation costs, thereby helping the farmer to reduce the costs associated with vegetable farming.

Farmers interested in growing vegetable crops from grafted plants are invited to get in touch with Hishtil SA, known for quality grafting.