Grafting with Hybrids?

woodcutter2008February 10, 2013

First off, I'm skeptical about this latest grafting "buzz." For the home gardener, I suspect it's a waste of money. But that said, It seems to me that the best case is promoting grafted plants to increase the yield (and perhaps disease resistance) of heirlooms. (?)

But grafting stock seed is very expensive, and grafted plants are really expensive. So here is the question -- has anyone tried grafting to a vigorous (regular) hybrid? It might produce decent results from a much lower cost. Or, there might be a few OP varieties that could be used as grafting stock effectively?


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carolyn137(z4/5 NY)

I too am wondering why all the interest in grafting. I don't think most folks realize that it's only some of the soilborne diseases which a specific rootstock might have some tolerance , not resistance, to when indeed the most common tomato diseases are the fungal and bacterial foliage diseases.

That being said, Dr. Davis Francis of Ohio State U has had excellent results using Celebrity F1 as rootstock.

If you wish you can Google his name and see what data you can find,

What bothers me the most are cerain places, Territorial is one, where the company that supplies them with plants has gone WAY over the top in describing the advantages.

Grafted plants are common in Australia and many there refuse to buy them b'c of the high cost.

There are some advantages re yield if grafted plants, with certain rootstocks, are grown in large commercial greenhouses, so I've read,

Carolyn, who feels that if yield is the issue then interested persons should consider known varieties that have high yields, and that doesn't necessarily mean F1 hybrids.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 8:41AM
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socalgal_gw Zone USDA 10b Sunset 24

I graft to Celebrity. I graft because my soil has root knot nematodes.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 9:54PM
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Thanks, Carolyn. I was able to find quite a bit of info, including several mentions of using celebrity as the rootstock.


    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 8:22AM
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carolync1(z8/9 CA inland)

I tried grafting to Big Beef once. Seems to have worked.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 7:42AM
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I agree with Carolyn that advantages in the NE are not that pronounced to justify the "Hassle" associated with grafting. When Dr. Randy Gardner's grad student (N.C.) first presented his findings I thought this would be great but once I tried it for a few years I became turned off by what I'll call "Side effects". Such issues as being extra careful to plant shallow so as not to allow the top variety to take root and then to continually sucker any stems originating from the rootstock just make the marginal-at-best yield increase not worth it.

I have tried grafting onto SunSugar rootstock solely because I thought that variety was very vigorous and the medicinal plant odor seemed to reinforce the idea of more disease resistance (No listed resistance). I've mostly used the Maxifort rootstock. One might always keep switching rootstock varieties depending on the attributes of that rootstock but even that methodology has it's costs.

When it comes to fruit or nut trees I wouldn't think of planting a non-grafted plant and if I were in an area where root borne diseases were common I would reconsider grafting of tomatoes. Every task has a break-even level. I just think the expenditures outweigh the payback for this one.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 2:10PM
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I have no idea about the purported claims and or the benefits of grafting tomatoes. That said, I read a book recently about grafting of european grape varietals onto american rootstock a few hundred years ago. My understanding is that worldwide stocks of certain varietals were truly under threat of collapse until the figured out to do this. But again, that is grapes - no idea about tomatoes.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 7:13PM
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My understanding is that vigor is also introduced into grafts vs. non-grafts. Is this not the case?

The video linked below is from talk given by Dr. Cary Rivard who has done thousands of tomato grafts over the years. Around the 33:00 mark he indicates one of the benefits of tomato grafting is the increased yield of fruit. Others have reported that using grafts extends the yield at the end of the growing season while his data suggest the opposite (i.e. tomatoes ripen faster and you get a bump at the early/midseason point). In the lower NE where I reside, the temperature and humidity in the Sept/Oct months is especially suited to growing tomatoes unfortunately by then, my large beefsteak heirlooms have pretty much stopped producing.

I do agree that the benefits of grafting is suited for those dealing with significant soil pest pressure, but there is also something to be said for vigor as well.

One of the tips that Dr. Rivard has indicated with grafts (especially grafts using the aggressive Maxifort/Beaufort rootstock) is concerning pruning. It is essential to continually prune your tomato plants to remove vigorous leaf production to force the plant to stay in a fertile state. From my readings here on the gardenweb forum, I haven't seen many discussing this. I have seen individuals say they get larger plants, but that does not equate to more fruit. Maybe this is due to improper pruning techniques when it comes to grafted plants?

In terms of hybrids, I purchased some celebrity seeds to graft with, but lately I've been seeing a lot of buzz about using eggplant as rootstock (specifically "Black Beauty").

Can anyone chime in on their thoughts of an eggplant hybrid over a tomato hybrid as a rootstock source?


Here is a link that might be useful: Dr. Cary Rivard Tomato Grafting Discussion

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 11:30AM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

All I can scoop up from the discussion here, is that in theory and science grafting may sound a good idea but in practice it has marginal effects on production and other issues. I am all for science and research needs to go on until it is perfected. I think crossing/hybridizing has come a long way that make big difference. That is more of a practical approach. I also support genetic engineering. JMO

    Bookmark   January 30, 2014 at 3:22AM
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rnewste(8b NorCal)

I am giving grafting a spin this Season - more of a "science project" and will grow out these plants alongside their non-grafted brothers. Range of Hybrids: Big Daddy, Applause, Dona F1, Carmello F1; along with Heirlooms including Goose Creek, Big Beef, Desters, etc.

(Scions on the left, Maxifort rootstock on the right)

If nothing else, it will keep me entertained over the Winter doing the grafts.


This post was edited by rnewste on Thu, Jan 30, 14 at 21:30

    Bookmark   January 30, 2014 at 9:27PM
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Looks like your rootstocks are much more progressed than your scions. My understanding is both need to be about the same size (especially in the stem diameter). How do you intend to equilibrate the two?

I've read if one is more progressed than the other, putting the more progressed plants in a "cold house" will slow down their growth allowing both the scion and rootstock to even themselves out.

Also, what grafting technique are you using? Are you using clips or hoses? How are you constructing your healing chamber?



This post was edited by smithmal on Fri, Jan 31, 14 at 5:58

    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 5:57AM
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Agree with smithmal. Those rootstock seedlings are going to be a mismatch in stem diameter. I've found that for Maxafort rootstock it works best to start the rootstock seed germination a week after scion seeds. That may not always be the case but stem diameter matchup is important.
There are different types of clips and different diameter clips as well. They can be sanitized and reused and are relatively inexpensive. dispite the cheap price some have used electrical tape or even scotch tape. The whole process can be a fun science project.... Just not worth the cost or bother for us northern growers.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 10:01AM
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rnewste(8b NorCal)

The photo above shows my Group B scions which were started 6 days after the Maxifort rootstock. I had initially started Group A scions 10 days before Rootstock below:

..but now they have developed too soon. I have now learned to start the scions 4 days before rootstock next Season to better match the 2.5mm grafting diameter target. So, I can either "top" the Group A scions to match up or hope the Group B guys get growing....

The Healing Chamber is simply a 31 gallon tote with a HydroFarms heat mat and a Air-O-Swiss cool mist generator (shown above):

Grafting is the Japanese Method (45 degree splices) using 2.0mm or 2.5mm clips.

Fun stuff!!


This post was edited by rnewste on Fri, Jan 31, 14 at 12:13

    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 12:07PM
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fcivish(Zone 6 Utah)

I am personally quite doubtful that grafted tomatoes will produce superior results in most home gardens.

In my opinion, most home gardeners, at least in the northern half of the country, probably don't need to worry much about tomato diseases. Diseases can be a big problem to farmers who MUST depend on their crop, but don't care about flavor, and are also probably more of a problem in the South/Southeast.

In theory there might be some advantage to grafting Heirloom scions onto a more vigorous, hybrid rootstock, but where is the real evidence?

I'd really like to see some tests, well designed, done in home gardens, that shows significant superiority from grafted tomatoes.

Now, having said that, I must note that fruit and grapes are entirely different types of plants and grafts in them can be very useful or even essential. I do my own grafting of my home fruit trees, mostly because I want a wide variety of the different types that I personally prefer, which often aren't readily available in stores. But grafting apples, plums, cherries, etc is quite different from grafting tomatoes.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 11:07PM
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The video I posted in an earlier post from Dr. Rivard's talk provided data that grafted Cherokee Purple tomatoes showed 30% - 40% (beaufort) and a 40% - 50% (maxifort) increase in fruit yield in growing environments that had no soil disease pressure (i.e. your typical northern growing climates) over a two year study (see the 30:40 mark in the video). He also indicated that his data suggested the reason for this increase yield was because grafted plants tended to produce fruit earlier than non-grafted plants.

In a separate conference (linked below), Dr. Rivard discusses a 3 year collaborative study with a high tunnel farmer in Pennsylvania, which indicated that grafted plants had a 2:1 increase in total yield vs. non-grafted plants. The increase in yield was so pronounced that the farmer has completely changed over to using only grafted plants and sees a $13,000 increase in net profit per acre (15:50 - 24:00 mark).

One significant point that Dr. Rivard makes, which I have not heard posters here mention when discussing the maintenance of grafted plants, is increasing the reproductive cycle in the grafted plants by defoliation (see 28:20 mark). Using a vigorous rootstock will promote the plant to go into a vegetative state. Pruning and de-leafing is necessary with grafted plants to force the plant to continually promote flowering.

Does his findings translate well for the home gardener (especially in the NE area of the country) who is probably only growing one or two quantities of any given heirloom variety and not prone to a lot of soil disease pressure? I'm not sure. Some heirlooms, like Cherokee Purple, seem to be very successful following grafting, others may not. Some of the cons of grafting include:
- increase in transplant maturity time (typically one week to 10 days) vs. non grafted transplants
- increase in rootstock seed cost
- increase in setup cost (building a healing chamber, purchasing clips, growing rootstock seedlings)

The way I see it though, is that I've never read that successfully grafted tomato plants are worse off than non-grafted ones. At the very least, I would think you would break even in terms of yield over the long run. You also get to start your growing season a little earlier (which for us Northerners who go through gardening withdrawal during the winter months, grafting would be at the very least a therapeutic endeavor).


Here is a link that might be useful: Tomato grafting: tips, tricks, and techniques to increase fruit yield

    Bookmark   February 6, 2014 at 5:30AM
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yardenman(z7 MD)

I am trying grafting my own heirloom tomatoes this year using silicon clips and Big Beef rootstocks. Each year, I plant a couple of Big Beefs as backup for my heirlooms. When I pull up the plants in the Fall, I've noticed the Big Beefs have a noticeably larger root system than the heirlooms. So I'm hoping for more vigorous growth and nutrient uptake with the grafts. I'm also hoping for some improved tolerance to soil-bourne problems.

Plus, well I already had the Big Beef seeds, the grafting clips aren't THAT expensive (compared to overall gardening costs), and I have the time to waste.

I'm adding a couple new raised beds, so I'll have room to plant both grafted and ungrafted heirlooms side by side to see if there is any difference in health and production.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2014 at 4:14PM
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yardenman(z7 MD)

Smithmal - I just watched the video link you provided on tomato grafting. Thank you! I understand more about grafting tomatoes from that video than from the dozen or so websites I visited previously. The discussion on the benefits and limitations of grafting was very useful, and the discussion on the healing chambers was completely new to me. I surely would have made a couple of the mistakes he warned against!

BTW, the discussion of consistent slant cuts made me decide to construct a simple angled plastic form to set next to the seedlings when I cut them.

One other thing that I noticed was the difficulty in matching the stem diameters for proper grafting. It seems to me that one could choose where to cut each seedling (higher or lower) to match the diameters precisely. OK, that sounds obvious, but I haven't seen any mention of that at any grafting website.

In addition, I like to plant my tomatoes a bit deep. So why not cut the rootstock higher than just 3" as most sites show. Why not at 6"? Or 8"? And then cut the scion wherever it matches the rootstock cut?

    Bookmark   March 1, 2014 at 5:39PM
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I'm going to a tomato grafting seminar put on by NCSU next week. This thread is very interesting to me as I too recoil from the rootstock seed costs. I had already decided to try Celebrity, Sweet Chelsea and Big Beef for rootstock and thinking about Florida Highbush as an alternative or additional - just to see what happens... and b/c I have them. Cherokee Purple, Angelo's Red and Isis Candy are going to be my first attempts after the class.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2014 at 11:02AM
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Matching rootstocks with scions is somewhat like picking parents for hybrids - some work very well together and others don't.

How well a match does is predicated on what one wants/needs to accomplish.

I see grafts as:

  • another potential management tool especially for commercial growers

  • a marketing angle for growers and garden centers to increase profits

Didn't watch the video but Cary frequently points out in these talks that resistance for verticillium is almost useless now (even in lines not grafted) as almost all verticillium samples assayed now are race2.

However there is one line currently that is resistant to vert race2 but it has been locked up in a utility patent (I did hear of a processing line for west coast production now available with V2 when in Corvallis).

    Bookmark   March 3, 2014 at 11:30AM
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