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Missouri Environment & Garden


Michele Warmund
University of Missouri
Plant Science & Technology
(573) 882-9632

Collecting and Handling Scion Wood for Grafting Apple and Nut Trees

Michele Warmund
University of Missouri
(573) 882-9632

Published: February 1, 2009

twig with bud

tree stem

Grafting is most commonly used to perpetuate a favorite apple or nut tree, without changing the characteristics of the fruit. Trees that are not currently patented may used for collecting scion wood. When grafting, the scion produces the new shoots for the tree and produces the desired fruit, while the rootstock is the lower portion of the graft, which forms the root system. While these trees are grafted just as the rootstock buds start to grow, the buds on the scion wood must be dormant at the time of grafting. Thus, February is an ideal time to collect scion wood for spring grafting. an ideal time to collect scion wood for spring grafting. Commonly used methods for spring grafting include “whip and tongue” and “cleft” grafting. Refer to https://extension.missouri.edu/publications/g6971 for descriptions of these techniques.

When collecting scion wood, it should be disease-free and should be the same diameter as that of the rootstock used for grafting. Typically, scion wood will be ¼ to ½ inch in diameter and 12 to 18 inches long. The scion wood should be from terminal (one-year-old) dormant shoots with well-developed vegetative buds that are narrow and pointed. In contrast, floral buds, which should be avoided, are round and plump. Terminal wood well-exposed to sunlight during the previous growing season generally produces excellent scion wood. On the terminal shoots, the best scions are produced from the basal two-thirds of the shoots. Buds in this portion of the shoot are mature and have short internodes. Buds growing at the very tip of the shoot should be discarded because they are often too succulent and are too low in stored carbohydrates to produce vigorous growth after grafting.

After cutting scion wood, it can be sealed in polyethylene bags to prevent moisture loss and stored for three months at 32ºF until grafting. Storage at lower temperatures in a home freezer (usually 0ºF) can injury the buds. Temperatures warmer than 32ºF, will shorten the storage life of the scion wood. Using scion buds that have begun to grow while in cold storage will result in grafting failure.

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