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Grafting new varieties onto old rootstock

Posted by Jeff Beyea 
Grafting new varieties onto old rootstock
February 26, 2019 08:51AM
Good Morning all,

We have 40+ red delicious trees on M26 rootstock, and frankly red delicious doesn't sell well. Looking at options for grafting new (more interesting) varieties onto those existing trees, and would appreciate any advice on how to go about it. Specifically, how far back should we cut the existing trees? Preferred methods? Anything else anyone would care to share?
Re: Grafting new varieties onto old rootstock
February 26, 2019 12:07PM
First, I would suggest that Red Delicious apples do actually have one worthwhile use: coat them with Tanglefoot, and use them as sticky red spheres, (then simply compost them when they are coated). (But you don't need 40 trees to supply this need).

With respect to topworking, the conventional wisdom is that you should not do more than half in one year, (advice I have ignored myself, without ill-consequences), and that within this constraint you can safely go back to lopping off scaffold branches to short stubs, and placing a series of bark grafts, (like a crown) into the ends, choosing the strongest and best to keep, the following year. (If your M26's are still relatively small, you may prefer to do cleft grafts.) While I have limited my attacks to cutting back the scaffold branches to stubs 8-12", a local commercial grower lopped off an entire row of full size trees back to stumps of the main trunk, and placed multiple bark grafts. With 6 or 8 grafts on each stump, he had a reasonable chance of getting at least one to take and grow. Of note is that the trees themselves tolerated this abuse - I don't think he managed to kill a single one of them, despite having completely removed every vestige of photosynthesis in one fell swoop of a chain saw. (It is not easy to kill an apple tree...). And, even if every one of your grafts fails, the tree will almost certainly react by activating dormant buds on the stock; these sprouts can then be used to have another go at it with whip and tongue grafting the following year.

But it is important to note that I have not the slightest credentials to make any authoritative pronouncements. I have only my own experience over 30 years or so, with a bit more aggression over the past 6 or 8 years. (I run a grafting workshop every spring, and we spend the afternoon hacking up established trees in my small orchard.)

Broomholm Orchard
Zone 5b in Nova Scotia
Re: Grafting new varieties onto old rootstock
February 26, 2019 05:25PM
Maybe the following pictures may give you some ideas.
Here is a mid-size tree just grafted: graft1_link
After a few years, it may look like this: graft2_link

Here is another style, maybe it is more the size of your trees: graft3_link

Good luck,
Claude

Jolicoeur Orchard
Zone 4 in Quebec
Re: Grafting new varieties onto old rootstock
February 27, 2019 06:04AM
What I have seen done quite successfully on a many acre scale, and what I have done myself on a limited number of trees myself, is to leave one branch of the original tree, then remove the central leader above this point and cleft or bark graft into it. The branch you leave will help the "new" tree grow for the 1st year or so, at which point it can be either removed or top-worked itself. On a tree as small as M26 i don't think you want to be doing a lot of grafting of individual branches, as this will limit your pruning options too much in the future; you want to grow a new leader.
Re: Grafting new varieties onto old rootstock
February 27, 2019 08:37AM
Thanks, this is very helpful. I'm hoping that in topworking these trees we can honor the vitality they have, yet get a marketable crop from them. Selling apples wholesale has not been a winning strategy here.
Re: Grafting new varieties onto old rootstock
February 27, 2019 08:38AM
Claude Jolicoeur Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Maybe the following pictures may give you some
> ideas.
> Here is a mid-size tree just grafted:
> [url=https://drive.google.com/open?id=1trYCcwWRP6h
> xFd1ri_SXhRmyh3Xv0GXR]graft1_link[/url]
> After a few years, it may look like this:
> [url=https://drive.google.com/open?id=11qN7LCoPMzJ
> k7gkjXyDjUCWU0wdVyxSI]graft2_link[/url]
>
> Here is another style, maybe it is more the size
> of your trees:
> [url=https://drive.google.com/open?id=1vrcIekd9FWI
> Y9SiQfB1QJp4dO4z17rFV]graft3_link[/url]
>
> Good luck,
> Claude


This is outstanding, thanks! A picture is, indeed, worth a thousand words, especially since I've never done this before!
Re: Grafting new varieties onto old rootstock
February 27, 2019 08:42AM
David Maxwell Wrote:

>
> But it is important to note that I have not the
> slightest credentials to make any authoritative
> pronouncements. I have only my own experience
> over 30 years or so, with a bit more aggression
> over the past 6 or 8 years. (I run a grafting
> workshop every spring, and we spend the afternoon
> hacking up established trees in my small orchard.)


Well, from my perspective you've got plenty of credentials! Thanks for sharing your thoughts- this is precisely what I need.
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