Citrus grafting

Citrus grafting

Citrus fruit grafting

Grafting is a cultivation practice that allows you to obtain a new plant or new fruit by combining parts of two plants of the same species or family. The grafting allows the development and propagation of many plants, especially the arboreal ones, or rather the fruit ones. Carried out with the right techniques and the right foresight, the grafting allows to obtain plants with an excellent aesthetic yield and fruits of better quality and more resistant to phytopathogenic agents and the most difficult climatic conditions. Among the plants to be grafted we also find citrus fruits, which can also propagate by cuttings. Grafting allows you to grow different species of citrus fruits, with the guarantee of obtaining the same good fruit as the main plant in any case.

How does it work

Grafting for citrus fruit mainly uses crown or split grafting techniques. Both are also called scion grafts, because on the main plant, called rootstock or mother plant, one or two scions composed of a branch with two or three buds are grafted. The rootstock, in citrus fruits, is composed of bitter orange, a variety that can better resist external agents and infections, while the scion or graft will be taken from clementine, mandarin, lemon or any other variety. To graft citrus fruits there are no limits to the choice of the graft, which can belong to any citrus species, while the choice of the rootstock is important, which must have some important basic vegetative characteristics, such as the quality of the fruit and the resistance of the plant. The scions to be grafted must have a length of about ten, fifteen centimeters and a diameter of one centimeter, while the rootstock, after topping horizontally, from which a round surface is obtained, must be cut vertically at about 4 centimeters from the edge, practicing a V-shaped "wound", about four centimeters from the edge. The scion can be inserted into this wound. In this case we will have practiced split grafting. If the cut is made in such a way as to obtain a flute-beak shape, the graft is called "a slope". If two lateral incisions are made in the bark, two scions can be inserted, which will appear to be placed in parallel with each other and precisely between the wood and the bark. In this case we will have practiced the crown graft.

What to avoid

When grafting citrus fruits, rootstocks with cuts or wounds that can no longer be closed and those damaged by obvious pathogenic attacks or extreme environmental conditions must be avoided. The mother plant, before being grafted, must also be cleaned of the shoots and twigs at the base, while it is not recommended to pull the sap of the suckers which will serve to nourish the graft. Suckers are shoots that develop at the base of woody plants, especially citrus and olive trees. These plant parts tend to remove energy from the plant taking over the other productive areas of the same, for this reason it is useful to remove the suckers at the base of the rootstock. Removal must also be carried out for those that may arise after grafting.

Which tools to use

To perform the grafts, knives suitable for the operation and commonly referred to as "grafting knives" are used. Alternatively you can use the billhooks, similar to knives, but with a slightly curved blade. The blade of grafting knives must be well sharpened. To allow for clean and precise cuts, grafting knives with ergonomic plastic handles and very sharp blades are available on the market. The cost of these knives is quite affordable and is around nine or eleven euros. Grafting knives have stainless steel blades, which have the advantage of not oxidizing, although knives with burnished steel blade, a very sharp material used for firearms, seem more suitable for grafting citrus fruits. but with a high tendency to oxidation.

Citrus fruit grafting: Precautions

To allow the graft to take root, attention must be paid to some useful precautions. The scions must have firm buds, so it is better to harvest them in autumn, when they are not in the vegetative phase, but in the resting phase. The same must be kept in the refrigerator to be used at the time of grafting which, in citrus fruits, must be carried out in spring (crown grafting), when the plant is in full vegetative vigor and when the bark detaches more easily from the trunk or at the end of autumn. (split graft). To avoid failure of the graft healing, the wounds of the cuts must be carefully sealed. In the split graft, the cuts are closed using agricultural mastic, while in the crown graft the scions are fixed by tying them with raffia (agricultural rope) which must cover the entire surface and circumference of the rootstock. Protruding scions are protected by covering them with a freezer bag closed with a loop of rope. These covers will be further covered with a paper bag for bread, which will always be tied with rope. The bags must be removed every 15 days to check the development of the buds. If these are present, the bags must be eliminated and the plant must be placed in a place not excessively exposed to direct sunlight. The mastic and the rope must be removed only when the wounds of the cuts have completely healed, forming the "callus" that joins the scions to the rootstock.

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