Nov 19, 2015
Symposium gathers industry to study vegetable grafting

A USDA grant-supported team ( will host its Fourth National Vegetable Grafting Symposium in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Dec. 7, one day before the start of the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable, and Farm Market EXPO. The team will also offer a daylong Grafting Clinic Dec. 8-9 at the same location. Registration will open online Sept. 28. PAT and CCA continuing education credits may be available.

“Grafting is a proven tool for enhancing long-term profit potential,” said Matthew Kleinhenz, Ohio State University Extension vegetable specialist. “Seedling producers and vegetable growers can benefit by making, selling and using grafted plants. Still, there are questions about how to get the greatest return on investment from grafted plants. Seedling and vegetable growers, members of the seed and variety development industry and researchers will share answers to these questions at the symposium. Participants will also update plans for follow-up research and education on grafting.”

The symposium is supported by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture through its Specialty Crops Research Initiative (SCRI).

The SCRI award supports a multi-institution research team focused on enhancing the success of the U.S. vegetable industry, partly through its using grafted plants more effectively. The team includes Clemson University, North Carolina State University, The University of Florida, Ohio State University, Kansas State University, the University of Arizona, Washington State University and USDA’s Horticultural Research Laboratory in Fort Pierce, Florida.

Grafting is a propagation method where the tissues of two plants are fused together. It combines the superior root system of a non-fruiting rootstock variety with the shoot of a good fruiting variety, called the scion. Grafting is seen as a viable technique to reduce pest and disease pressures while preserving the productivity of currently used vegetable varieties.

Vegetable grafting is popular among farmers in Europe and Asia for crops such as melon, tomato and pepper. Still, fewer growers in the United States currently use grafted plants as part of integrated crop management strategies that can improve plant growth, control diseases, boost tolerance to temperature and increase nutrient uptake.

Topics to be covered at the symposium include propagation technology developments, research on tomato and cucurbit grafting methods, industry rootstock trials, the performance of grafted plants under many conditions, and rootstock breeding and marketing. Growers will also speak about their successes and challenges in using grafted plants in both large-scale field production and high tunnel production.

The program is being held in Grand Rapids partly because it is near major centers of production. The Midwest and Great Lakes vegetable industry is large, progressive and actively looking for ways to solve production problems with minimum impact on the environment, according to program organizers. It is important to maximize production while minimizing threats due to nematodes and soilborne diseases and damage to the environment. Also, profit must be squeezed from every acre every year, no matter the growing conditions.

“Grafted plants can outperform ungrafted plants in many situations. However, like every tool, grafted plants must be used properly. The symposium is an opportunity for seedling and vegetable growers to learn how to make and use grafted plants more effectively,” Kleinhenz said.

In addition to the symposium, EXPO attendees will be able to participate in a Vegetable Grafting Clinic on Dec. 8-9. The clinic will feature a take-your-time, do-it-yourself approach to learning more about grafting. Experts will be on hand to answer questions and publications, posters and videos will be available for viewing. All items needed to graft tomato seedlings will be on hand. Clinic participants can try their hand at grafting, with or without input from experienced grafters. Participants can linger, and come and go based on their schedule and interest in grafting. Clinic participation is free with EXPO registration.

For more information, email Matt Kleinhenz, or call 330-263-3810.

Matthew Kleinhenz, Ohio State University; Ben Werling, Michigan State University


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