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  • Author or Editor: Sarah A. Masterson x
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Grafting with interspecific hybrid rootstock is effective for tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) growers looking to reduce soilborne disease in the southeastern United States. However, production with grafted tomato has not been tested in the central United States, where soilborne disease pressure is low. Small-acreage growers would like to produce grafted plants themselves, but many have difficulty with propagation due to water stress in the scion postgrafting and/or high temperatures. Removing the upper portion of the scion to reduce leaf area during the grafting procedure [shoot removal (SR)] could help to reduce water stress postgrafting, but there are no data available that indicate what effect this practice has on tomato yield. Five high tunnel trials and one open-field trial were conducted in 2011 and 2012 to investigate potential yield effects related to the use of two rootstocks and SR during the grafting procedure. The implementation of grafting with rootstocks significantly increased fruit yield in five of the six trials (P < 0.05). The average yield increases by ‘Maxifort’ and ‘Trooper Lite’ tomato rootstocks were 53% and 51%, respectively, across all trials. SR during the grafting process may penalize tomato yield and our results suggest that rootstock vigor plays a role. Plants grafted with ‘Maxifort’ across all of the trials consistently increased shoot biomass in four of five of the high tunnel trials compared with nongrafted plants (P < 0.05), whereas plants grafted with ‘Trooper Lite’ rootstock increased shoot biomass in one trial. Similarly, the SR method penalized the total fruit yield of plants grafted with ‘Trooper Lite’ more often than those that were grafted with ‘Maxifort’. Our results suggest that plant growth and ultimately tomato fruit yield is affected negatively by using the SR grafting technique, particularly when less vigorous rootstock is used.

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The utilization of grafted tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) plants in the United States shows significant promise, particularly as intensively managed production systems like high tunnels and greenhouses become more popular. However, the availability of grafted plants in the United States is currently a major barrier and a large portion of farmers who would like to use grafted plants would prefer to propagate their own. The objectives of this study were to determine how healing chamber design affects graft survival and microclimate, and to investigate how scion leaf and shoot removal affects graft survival in various healing chambers. Similar experiments were repeated at two locations in Kansas and a split-plot, randomized complete block design (RCBD) was used in each, with three and four replications being conducted over time at each of the locations. Five chamber treatments were tested including a negative control (none) as well as shadecloth alone, white vinyl mesh, polyethylene film and shadecloth, and polyethylene film with shadecloth and a cool-mist humidifier. No statistically significant effects of chamber design were seen on grafted plant success. However, microclimate data from the various healing chambers offer valuable data toward determining the best management practices for grafted plants. Shadecloth alone showed significant promise as this covering provided cooler temperatures during the afternoon when the healing chambers were prone to excessive heat buildup. Three tube-grafting methods were tested, including standard tube-grafted plants (no leaves removed), leaf removal (LR) plants (≈75% of the leaf surface area was removed from the scion), and shoot removal (SR) plants (the apical meristem and all true leaves were removed). The SR method did not affect graft survival, but the LR method increased grafting success from 78% to 84% and was significant as compared with the other methods (P < 0.05). The long-term goals of this work are to develop successful propagation systems that can be used by small-acreage growers with limited greenhouse facilities. The data presented here indicate that high-humidity healing chambers (>85% relative humidity) may not be necessary for tomato, and LR can increase the grafting success rate.

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