Apple Grafting Methods; Pruning Methods; Training

Apple Grafting Methods; Pruning Methods; Training

The following information is about Apple Grafting Methods, Pruning Methods, and Training procedure.

These Apple trees can be more profitable if cultivated under the following environmental conditions:

  • An apple is a sweet, edible fruit formed by an apple tree. Apple trees are cultivated worldwide and are the most widely developed species in the genus Malus. Apple trees are believed to be cultivated, since the 3rd century BC, particularly in Asia. Today, Apple is maybe the main popular fruit for adults and children.
  • Its widespread is caused partly because the apple tree is very flexible & resilient. It can present fruits even in temperatures below -22°F (-30°C). Consequently, apple trees do not always require optimum conditions in order to thrive. The trees are popular for adapting to their local conditions and yield some fruits despite difficulties, provided the choice of variety is done rationally.
  • Appletree (Malus pumila) is an element of the Rosaceae family. It reaches a regular height of 16 feet (5 meters). Standard apple trees can make a height of 25-35 feet or even more. Semi-dwarf & dwarf trees reach a height of 6-20 feet. The blossoms are formed in the spring. The fruits mature on shoots that are two or more years old.
  • The average apple tree is able to produce a notable quantity of fruits from the 3rd to 6th year of its age & can continue to do so until the 35th-50th year of its age.
  • Normally, the apple tree has greater needs in colder than most of the other deciduous fruit trees. Most popular apple tree varieties thrive in regions where the temperature rarely increases beyond 90°F (32°C).
  • The apple tree can thrive in average soil with a pH close to 7, provided that is well drained & free from stagnated water. However, maximum yields are reported on fertile sandy soils & loams with a pH ranging from 6 to 7.
  • The average young apple tree needs a lot of water in order to develop strong roots, leaves & finally fruits.

Propagation of Apple:

Apple trees are wonderful fruit trees that can be propagated in a variety of different ways.  Grafting methods include, but are not limited to, T-budding, whip, and tongue & chip budding. These are the most common; however, there are tons of other methods that are normally used as well.  One of the most necessary parts of apple tree propagation is selecting the right rootstock.  Most of the scions used from apple trees are grafted & budded onto clonal rootstocks.  For a successful grafting, the ideal state of the scion is dormant through the rootstock is active.  Apple trees need deep, well-drained, loamy soils and a pH of 6-7. However, apples are developed for a wide variety of soils worldwide.

Apples are generally propagated by shield budding, which gives a high percentage of success. Most of the apple plants are grafted on a seedling of wild crab apple. The seedling rootstocks obtained from the seeds of diploid cultivars like Golden Delicious, Wealthy, and Macintosh & Granny Smith also can be used. High-density planting is completed using dwarfing rootstocks.

Apple Propagation.
Apple Propagation.

Grafting Process of Apple:

Grafting is taking a cutting from one tree, and attaching it to one more tree. They will heal together & grow as a single plant. When a tree produces fruit and seeds, those seeds won’t grow into a tree-like to the parent tree. So if you plant a seed from an apple, it will develop into a tree, but the apples from that tree will not be identical to the original apple. Often they will be small & inedible “crab apples”. Occasionally you will get lucky, and the seed will grow & produce tasty apples.

By grafting, take cuttings from that tasty apple tree, and clone it, producing an almost infinite number of copies that will produce identical apples. Grafting involves joining two pieces of genetically different living plant tissue together so they develop together as one plant. The lower part of the compound plant is called as the stock or rootstock. This is the element that produces the root system. The upper part is referred to as the scion & produces the shoot system of the plant. For grafting, a short piece of the tree of the desired variety is taken & placed onto a limb of the rootstock. Grafting is generally done during the dormant season and must be done on the dormant scion and stock wood.

Apples are propagated by several methods that are whip, tongue, cleft and roots grafting. Tongue & cleft grafting at 10-15 cm above the collar during February-March gives the best results. Usually grafting is completed at the end of winter.

Read: Weed Management In Agriculture.

Different Grafting methods used in Apple:

Root Grafting:

Root grafting is used to generate a tree on a seedling rootstock. Root grafting is done when the apple rootstock & scion are dormant. (Pear is not generally root-grafted.) Either whole roots or pieces of roots 3 or 4 inches long & as large as or slightly larger in diameter than the scion may be used. Arrange the scion by making a diagonal cut on the lower end about 1½ inches long with a well-sharpened grafting knife. Hold the knife at an acute angle, and pull the scion during the blade with a swift, smooth stroke. Make the tongue; start the cut one-third of the way down from the tip of the cut surface, and end one-third of the approach from the bottom of the cut surface. Arrange the top part of the root section the same way at the bottom. Do not touch the cut surfaces with hands. Oil from the skin can inhibit union of the parts.

Connect the two pieces, making sure that the cambium layers are in contact at least on one side. Grafting tape is suggested to bind the union. When it is spiraled on tightly & in such a way that the edges overlap slightly, the union will be held in place and protected from desiccation. The grafting tape does not have to be removed. It is planned to disintegrate after the grafts are planted in the field. Rubber budding bands or light twine may be used, but these would need to be cut before planting.

Cleft Grafting:

Cleft grafting is the most generally used methods for top working a relatively mature tree over to another variety. This system is used on stocks from one to three inches in diameter. The scion is arranged by making a tapering cut 1 to 2 inches long on each side. The scion should be 3 to 4 inches long & about 3/8 to 1/2 inch in diameter.

The stock is cut off squarely & split vertically with a knife or the cleft grafting tool to a depth of about 2 to 3 inches. Keep the knife in position or insert a chisel to keep the split open & insert the scions. The scion is placed so that its cambium layer & the cambium layer of the stock are in contact. All exposed surfaces are waxed or coated instantly. Regularly, no wrapping is needed because the stock exerts sufficient pressure to hold the scions; however, wrapping the stock will ensure a tight connection & less chance for the scion to be bumped out of the stock. After wrapping the scion and stock, paint the stock surface & the ends of the scions with a wound dressing or cover them with wax.

Once development starts in the spring, the bark loosens or slips. When this occurs, the bark and wood portions may not split evenly & clefting may not be satisfactory. You should then switch to either the bark or inlay kind of graft. After the scion starts to grow in the spring, excellent idea is to cut off all of the wood from the old variety except one limb as a “nurse” limb. Later in the summer revisit the grafts to see how much development is occurring. If excessive development occurs or you are in a windy area, you may want to support the new scions. Take a one-inch piece of the wood board below the union and fasten the new Scion to the wood with ties.

A well grafted apple trees.
A well grafted apple trees.
Whip-and-Tongue Grafting:

The whip-and-tongue graft is generally done on small diameter material (6-13mm) and is one of the strongest types of grafts. Higher success rates are seen with this graft since the cambium layers have a lot of surface contact. When selecting material for this graft, it is important to have the scion & stock of somewhat equal diameter. A section of the scion with two or three buds must be used. Identical cuts are made at the top of the rootstock & bottom of the scion, so the two pieces fit together nicely. The first cut is about 1-2.5 inches long and made at an angle with one long & continuous motion of the knife. This first cut must be made on the scion in the internode area below the two or three buds. Smooth cuts are necessary so that good cambium layer contact will occur.

An identical cut is then prepared on the rootstock. A second cut is happening about a third of the way down from the tip of the first cut. This second cut must be about half as long as the first cut and made parallel to the first. After this second cut is prepared on both the scion and stock, the two pieces are interlocked. They must fit together perfectly, with no gaps. At this point, it is important that the vascular cambium layers come into contact on one or both sides of the cuts. The tips of the cuts should not overlap the material they are grafted onto to avoid callus knots. The graft can be held mutually by budding rubber strips or grafting tape.

Whip grafts are similar to whip-and-tongue grafts. The difference is that the second cut is not made when doing the whip grafts. The first cut is again equal to the whip-and-tongue cut (smooth, sloping and 1-2.5 inches long). The cut is made on both the scion & stock and the two pieces are fixed together, making sure the good cambium contact occurs. The whip graft is wrapped as described above. It is common for this kind of graft to be done on apple tree material with specialized machines.

Read:Sapota Grafting Methods.

T-Budding Grafting:

T-budding is one of the most excellent forms of graft propagation for Malus Domestica. For this technique of propagation budding rubbers, parafilm, a sharp grafting knife & a healthy scion and rootstock are needed.  Budding is a type of grafting in which only the bud of the scion is required.  The greatest time of year for T-budding is in the fall when the bark of the rootstock is slipping.  This means that the bark can easily separate from the wood, which is why the fall season allows for a successful graft.  When the bark is slipping, the plant is actively growing & the cambium cells are dividing.  T-budding gets its name from the T shape cut that is completed onto the rootstock for the graft.  The first cut prepared on the rootstock is vertical, into the wood tissue.  The second cut is horizontal just under the first cut production that T shaped opening. A viable, healthy bud is then removed from the scion & inserted into the bark of the rootstock. The bud union area is then wrapped with budding rubbers & para-film, but be careful not to cover the actual bud itself with the budding rubber.

Planting a Grafted Apple trees:

Grafted apple trees require special planting attention. For most apple trees, keep the graft above the soil level; otherwise, the roots could develop from above the graft & apple tree could grow to its full size by bypassing its dwarfing parts. Budded apple trees are manually fitted to specially select clonal rootstocks.

Apple trees may be planted in early spring, as soon as the frost in the ground has thawed. If the soil is much waterlogged, it is best to stay until it drains. Stay until the soil no longer comes up in sticky clumps that stick to the shovel. 

Principles of Pruning and Training the Young Apple Tree:

Pruning of Apple Trees.
Pruning of Apple Trees.

Training and pruning the young apple tree begins at planting time, and the training program must be continued until the tree reaches maturity. Pruning the young apple tree eliminates the need for costly corrective pruning later, develops good tree structure, and encourages early fruit production. The specific, year-by-year program will vary depending on several factors, including varietal vigor, tree growth habit, final tree size, and whether the tree is free standing or supported. Trees intended for mechanical harvesting must be trained appropriately from the start.

Apple trees Pruning:

Apple trees require minimum pruning, but useful pruning techniques have been found to improve yields, product quality & tree health in the long term.

Apple trees are the most common fruit trees home gardeners want to grow. Pruning method is necessary in order to open up the tree canopy to sunlight & air circulation and promote fruit production and a healthy plant.

Pruning Tools:

It’s very important to have the right tools for the job. Keep the following tools handy for when pruning the trees:

Hand pruners: Use a hand pruner tool to remove small branches and twigs. You’ll probably use this tool the most, so keep them sharp & handy.

Loppers: Loppers have long handles & provide more leverage when pruning larger branches. They’re typically used to prune branches larger than the width of your thumb, or about one-inch diameter or more.

Folding saw: This tool is helpful when pruning limbs larger than 3″ in diameter.

Pole pruners: These consist of a blade attached to a long pole & are handy for reaching high branches.

Pruning Procedure:

To prune the tree efficiently, follow these steps:

  • Cut off water sprouts rising in the trunk and scaffold limbs. Occasionally, a water sprout could be left to fill in an open area.
  • Remove broken & diseased branches.
  • Eliminate the weakest of crossing or closely growing parallel limbs. Remove all limbs or spurs rising downwards.
  • If the tree wants more branches thinning, remove weak, spindly branches first. Eliminate the dense or long growth from the upper portions of the tree which shade lower limbs. Limbs growing within arm’s reach are easier to harvest & spray.
Apple Pruning Tips:
  • Light is essential for quality fruit.
  • Prune through the dormant period, late winter or early spring. March and April’s months are best. Use tools made specifically for pruning and keep them sharp & clean.
  • Make all cuts smooth & close.
  • On cultivars that bear heaviest on alternate years, do heavy pruning before the bearing season.
Apple Pruning Tips.
Apple Pruning Tips.
Pruning neglected Apple trees:

Many people will purchase a house where an apple tree was planted on the property a number of years ago. Often, the previous owners did not take the time to correctly prune the tree. The tree has become bushy and weak and will make very poor quality apples. Such an apple tree requires extensive corrective pruning.

The main objective in pruning such a tree is to try & open up the interior to allow good light penetration. The first step is to remove all the upright, vigorous rising shoots at their base that are shading the interior. As with the young apple trees, it is necessary to select three to five lower scaffold branches with good crotch angles & spaced around the tree. Limbs with poor angles and excess scaffold limbs must be removed at their base. In several cases, it is advisable to spread the correct pruning over two to three seasons. When severe pruning is done in the winter, the trees must not be fertilized that spring.

Summer Pruning of Apple trees:

Summer pruning is advised, especially for removing waterspouts, root suckers & fire-blight-infected wood. Summer pruning can be used during the first three years of tree training to produce the desired tree shape. Undesired growth must be removed in early summer or after harvest between late August and early September. Also, note that pruning must be focused on thinning out rather than heading back.

Heading-back cuts may stimulate new development near the cut. If the trees are heavily pruned, reduce the quantity of fertilizer applied in relation to the severity of pruning. Heavily pruned trees may not want fertilizer for a year or two. 

Thin wood pruning:

Thin wood pruning of fruiting trees is economically & profitable, resulting in the production of more apples of good quality. Thin wood is found on the outer reaches of the tree & toward the center. A ladder is generally necessary to do a good job on the outside. Better growers will prune thin wood although it takes longer than just the removal of crowded branches or bulk pruning. These apple trees often look over-pruned but close observation will show that some limbs are removed.

Training of Apple Plants:

Training begins when a tree is planted & continues throughout the life of the tree. Training a tree properly through its first few years can save many hours of difficult, corrective pruning as the tree ages. Limb positioning is important because it determines whether the branch will generate primarily fruit or vegetation. When branches grow straight up, they produce mostly vegetative growth & very little fruit. By contrast, branches that grow straight out from the tree are very fruitful but generate little new vegetative growth. The perfect limb position is about 30° above horizontal, creating a 60° crotch angle. This allows maximum fruit production while still promoting the development of new wood for future fruiting. In addition, branches having a wide angle between the limb & the trunk, the crotch angle, are stronger than upright branches with narrow crotches. Branches are more easily positioned when they are only 3 to 6 inches long with very soft wood.

Training of Apple.
Training of Apple.
Training young trees:

The objective of training a young tree is to develop a structure that will give a strong framework to support fruit production. The top of the tree must be smaller and narrower than the bottom of the tree. These shapes prevent the top of the tree from shading the bottom of the tree. The central leader method produces a vertical central leader or main stem & strong, properly spaced scaffold limbs. This system is easy to prune & provides optimum production potential.

The training method in an Apple tree:

When training an apple tree it is important to choose limbs that have wide crotch angles. Limbs with narrow attachments to the trunk are not as strong those limbs that connect almost perpendicular to the trunk. Narrow crotch angles can break under a crop load or excessive icing through the winter. Make sure that when choosing the bottom limbs of the tree that they are the preferred height from the ground. Limbs that are too low may create the tree difficult to mow around & limbs which are too high may result in fruit that cannot be reached from the ground.

Most commercial apple growers will prune & train their trees in the shape of a Christmas tree. This means that their long limbs are going to be the bottom branches & the limbs will get progressively shorter as you go up the tree. This type of training improves sunlight penetration into the tree, which helps with disease control & better fruit quality.

Read:Peach Fruit Cultivation.


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