A Lincoln University researcher is training extension educators on emerging plant grafting technology and the relevant physiology.
Sanjun Gu is a State Horticulture Specialist with an extension/research appointment dealing with commercial vegetable and small fruit production at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, MO. His research interests include vegetable grafting, vegetable production in high-tunnels and the other types of solar plastic greenhouses, and new variety trials. His current emphasis includes the testing of new varieties and grafting of tomatoes and watermelons for high yield and improved quality. Using grafting, Gu has been fusing scions (young shoots) with resistant root stocks to manage soil-borne diseases.
Gu wanted to conduct a series of grafting workshops and field tours for educators from extension, government, and other agencies. In 2008, he applied for a NCR-SARE Professional Development Grant, and he was awarded $61,837 to conduct the work.
“Vegetable grafting has been practiced for many years in some Asian and European countries,” said Gu. “I worked extensively with cucumber and tomato grafting in China and knew this technology would benefit American vegetable farmers, especially the smaller ones.”
Researchers around the world have demonstrated that grafting young shoots on resistent rootstocks can protect plants against a variety of soil-borne diseases in various climates and conditions. Worldwide use of grafting has been used to battle corky root rot, root-knot nematodes, bacterial wilt, southern blight, and Verticillium and Fusarium wilt.
“Grafted tomatoes/vegetables are resistant to some critical soil-borne diseases, and are often cold hardy and vigorous,” said Gu. “This technique, however, is new to most agricultural professionals in the United States. There is a need to train educators in this area, especially for vegetable production in high tunnels and solar greenhouses, which offer seasonal extension and save energies.”
Gu’s workshops and tours focused on tomato, watermelon, cucumber, and other vegetable grafting. He shared the history and physiology of vegetable grafting, grafting techniques including rootstock and scion selection, various grafting methods, acclimation of grafts, and management of grafted transplants, automated grafting, the economics of vegetable grafting, and conducted a tour and demonstration of vegetable production with grafted transplants.
Gu was able to deliver grafting technology information to horticultural educators in Missouri and neighboring states. He says more than 80% of the participating educators have conducted at least one grafting workshop to vegetable farmers.
“This project provides farmers with nonchemical options in managing (soil-borne) diseases,” said Gu. “This is a great deal in sustainable vegetable farming because the enhanced disease resistance and cold hardiness of vegetable crops could ultimately result in enhanced crop productivity and profitability. The non-chemical input in production always leads to a better natural environment.”
View a presentation on this project, from the 2012 Farmers Forum, through NCR-SARE's YouTube playlist. Visit www.youtube.com/NCRSAREvideo for this and other videos.
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