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 Interstem grafting 
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Joined: Mon Dec 08, 2008 8:22 am
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Location: SW Portland, Oregon, USA
Post Interstem grafting
I'm very interested to learn more about intersteming. I've seen many references to it here, and read through all the forums on it. I haven't read that much on grafting yet, so maybe this is a common topic in grafting books?

But I'm curious: how does it affect the form of the tree? For example, on an M111 -> M9 interstem, would you end up with a full M111 size root system? It would seem that the tree wouldn't be able to sustain that much of a root system, because of the M9 interstem. I'm just so curious how this all affects the tree.

I'm surprised people would do anything but intersteming if you truly get the advantages of a larger root system (less watering and staking) with the dwarfing qualities of the interstem. What are the downsides or tradeoffs?

And finally, is intersteming done mostly on apples? I've read about people using interstems on other fruits to deal with compatibility issues, but is it also used to retain the advantages of a larger tree?

And now that I know how to do a basic graft, can I just get a M111 and M9 at the fruit exchange, graft them together, and then bud something else to it in August (when I learn how to do so!)?

I'm full of questions. Thanks for your help!

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Sat Feb 21, 2009 5:22 pm
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Post Re: Interstem grafting
Is there a book I could find this information in?

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Mon Feb 23, 2009 4:25 pm
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Location: Portland, OR
Post Re: Interstem grafting
Ask Ted Swensen at the Scion Exchange. You'll have to wait 15-20 minutes to even be able to speak to him. What he says will be worth more than any gardening class you could attend.
John S
PDX OR

You could probably also ask some other veterans, but I don't know exactly who.


Tue Feb 24, 2009 12:58 am
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Joined: Wed May 09, 2007 9:18 am
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Location: Corvallis, Oregon USA
Post Re: Interstem grafting
I also read up on interstem grafting in the last couple of years, and decided that was the way to go for the apple trees I was starting last spring - the advantages are as you mentioned - larger roots so less water needed, and more stability; if you use a smaller dwarfing interstem that would normally need to be supported or staked then you don't need to. The main disadvantages seem to be cost and time, which are kind of the same thing - normally a nursery will plant out a rootstock in the fall; then come through and bud graft one bud of the chosen variety the next summer, then the next fall or spring cut off the rootstock above the new bud forcing it to now be the tree. Then let it grow - for an interstem tree; need to do this twice, or do grafting; so it takes longer and more labor, hence costs more - not enough to make it worthwhile for most commercial growers!

And most people going out and buying a fruit tree wouldn't know the difference! So it's a great idea, but limited useage - I grafted 11 apple trees on interstems last year, and have high hopes for them; and did a little risky by grafting everything at once, figured as long as most of the interstems "took" I'd be okay; but if the variety also took then I was ahead on the timeline, if not I hadn't lost anything really. Turned out that all interstems took, and only one variety didn't; so I only need to regraft one of my whole group of trees! I was mostly using MM111 with M9 interstems, but also did a few with Antonovka with Bud 9 interstems - all are only a year old; so not like I can really tell you the advantages yet!

Hope that helps - my copy of Warren Manhearts book helped convinve me, he has a bit of info about interstems; also found more scattered around the web.

Dave
lotus026@yahoo.com


Tue Feb 24, 2009 8:37 pm
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Location: Yamhill County, Oregon
Post Re: Interstem grafting
Dave,

thanks for the expert advice. Now maybe I should know this, but living in dear/elk country – I’ve never considered such dwarfing. At the grafting classes I was asked (in a small group) if you can make ‘both’ grafts at the same time? The guy who asked actually said he’d heard/read that you can. In your description above I didn’t get that ‘that’ can be done.

If so – I’d at least like to try it. If someone brought a rootstock, piece of interstem and their selected scion to the propagation fair’s grafting tables - could/should I do both grafts then? -- And - should we charge them double? :mrgreen:

Maybe I should wait for your response, but it sounds like fun! Since you’d have no need for a ‘viable bud’ on the interstem; could you get away with leaving it ‘extra short,’ like just one bud..? Or, do you need a specific length of interstem to provide the desirable characteristics?

For years I’ve saved M9 tops for you guys - I’ll shut up and await your answer

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Tue Feb 24, 2009 9:56 pm
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Post Re: Interstem grafting
Yes, you can do them both at the same time! I did that after talking with Ted Swenson, and he saw no reason it couldn't be done; mostly what you're risking is that since you're doing twice as much grafting there is twice as much chance of one not taking. Since I think my numbers were a total of 12 interstem trees and only one upper graft that didn't take and since that was the first time I'd ever grafted other than the HOS novice class last year; I'd say that I had pretty good success! Think most of the commercial places don't like it since budding is so much faster and less labor intensive, as well as better percentage of "take".

The recommendations I found for interstem length mostly seemed to be from 3 to 7 inches; though more towards the middle of that range - I found some references to experiments being done which had found that a 1mm interstem actually gave almost the full dwarfing effect of a much longer one; rather amazing! I used what I had; thanks to you saving the scraps of M9 & Bud 9 for me! Mostly ended up being around 4 to 5 inches; though some as short as 3 inches, it really didn't sound like the length was really critical. And if someone wants it done, no reason not to do it if they understand the slightly higher risk of it not taking; but also it should cost double - it's twice the work!

I wanted viable buds on my interstem just to make sure that it would grow in case the upper graft didn't take; once it did I rubbed off the lower buds, except on the one Hudson's Golden Gem (out of 2 at least!) that didn't take; I'll graft the top again this year.
Dave


Tue Feb 24, 2009 11:15 pm
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Post Re: Interstem grafting
Oops, forgot to mention that since I collected everything I could scrounge for leftover cut off rootstock tops at the grafting table at the Scion Exchange last year (I was collecting just M-9 & Bud-9 upper tips); I had lots of different sized interstems; more than I needed for the dozen trees I was grafting. So I could pick & choose a bit to match up sizes maybe a bit more closely than you otherwise would be able to; as well as most of the scionwood I also had more of a selection than I needed. Since I was a totally novice grafter, I was being way more paranoid about size matching on both top & bottom grafts than I'm sure I needed to be; so that probably helped my success rate! I had probably about a dozen leftover pieces that could have been used for interstems, but they were mostly on the short side; would have worked but I was trying to use about 4 to 5" ones; had mostly 3" ones left.

I found that using a small block plane really helped me making the first angled cut, I just hadn't acquired the knack of doing it fast and straight with a knife - I don't normally use a knife much everyday! And that the block plane did a pretty good job and I could control the angle better, and just check against each other to see how the 2 parts matched - guess it worked; since they mostly took! It is really whittling it down, but at least with the plane it's much more controlled than whittling with a knife would be - it worked for me!

Dave


Wed Feb 25, 2009 9:15 am
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Post Re: Interstem grafting
This is fantastic information, and Viron, I might ask you to graft me an interstemed tree at the Fruit Propagation Fair!

So far I have looked at apple tree combinations. Has anybody done this much with plums or pears or persimmons or kiwis, etc?

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Wed Feb 25, 2009 9:23 am
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Post Re: Interstem grafting
Dave, excellent understandable answers, thank you.

OK, for those like myself, relatively new to Interstems, they apparently allow you to plant a very vigorous rootstock (I suspect a seedling or standard tree), that will really dig-in to harsh conditions. Then you graft the dwarfing rootstock onto that. Finally, you graft your desired variety (scion) on top of that; making two grafts instead of the usual one.

It should give you an extremely strong root system with a tree that doesn’t need staking or trellising due to a small and/or weak rootstock. Because you’re using a rootstock (interstem) that limits the flow of nutrients to the desired variety, it keeps the uppermost part of the tree to a desired size. - Right?

The bottle-neck would be acquiring the interstem wood. You’d ultimately have to buy two rootstocks; one for the actual root system, the second for it’s top 5 or so inches. And since few people outside of organizations and hobbyists like us are aware of these properties, and the additional expense and difficulty for a nursery attempting to produce or market such a tree - it’s use is extremely limited.

Again, Lotus, or Dave - yours are excellent descriptions of the process! I suspect your concern and diligence regarding matching rootstock-to-interstem-to-variety-scions made a difference; it’s the same thing I work hard to achieve when using the whip & tongue graft. ‘now’ should HOS begin marketing those M9/Bud9 tops :mrgreen:

Jadeforrest: “This is fantastic information, and Viron, I might ask you to graft me an interstemed tree at the Fruit Propagation Fair!” - Get in line! - and don’t forget to pay twice!![/i]

“So far I have looked at apple tree combinations. Has anybody done this much with plums or pears or persimmons or kiwis, etc?” - Kiwis are on their own roots, so there wouldn’t be much need. Persimmon rootstock hasn’t been developed much beyond seedlings, or so I’m told; so little would be hardier than a seedling!

But this actually sounds like a good idea for any fruit trees with dwarfing rootstock. Again, if I’m correct in my interpretation: if one planted vigorous rootstock, such as a seedling, then grafted an interstem of the “dwarfing rootstock” above that - then the eventual plum or pear, you’d have a very strong root system feeding a moderate sized tree. Question: how well do these moderate sized trees support a vigorous root system; sap doesn’t only flow up?

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Wed Feb 25, 2009 5:44 pm
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Post Re: Interstem grafting
I'm glad to hear everyone else is so interested in this too.

I did a cursory look online, and was surprised at how much I saw, but also how poorly distilled it is. It seems like most of this is geared towards commercial applications, and it's mostly research related?

Interesting that they do it on cherries: http://www.actahort.org/members/showpdf ... rnr=169_43

This article was particularly interesting: http://www.hortnet.co.nz/publications/s ... ntstem.htm

For apples, traditionally interstems were used for compatibility reasons. Recently there has been a lot of interest in using interstems for improved disease resistance. That's less relevant for me personally, but interesting nonetheless.

Quote:
...
Early work on interstem apple trees at East Malling (Parry and Rogers, 1972) and in the US (Carlson and Oh, 1975) showed that the length of the dwarfing interstem controlled the tree size. Hence a tree with a short interstem piece was larger than a tree with a longer interstem. Collaborative Dutch and Italian work found that interstem trees on MM.106 with a 35 cm interstem piece of M.9 were comparable in size to trees worked directly on M.9 (Wertheim, Morini and Loreti, 1989). Thus not only can the tree size be controlled by the length of the interstem piece but care must be taken in the nursery to ensure that this length is kept constant, otherwise variable tree size will be the consequence in the orchard.


I'm curious what source you found that said the interstem length was not significant. Perhaps something newer, as this is older research?

Also interesting that it does state some disadvantages: the biggest is that it takes longer to get going, but there is also additional interactions between three sets of genes. Not sure what that means.

There may also be a difference in fruit quality (http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/conten ... mptype=rss) although it looks like they used a variety in the interstem rather than a standard rootstock. And most of the studies seem to not show any differences.

Here is a thread on sourcing interstem apple trees: http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/loa ... 28054.html Apparently a few places do it.

Here is an article on persimmons on interstems(!) http://sciencelinks.jp/j-east/article/2 ... 201147.php Fruit quality is fine, trees are smaller.

For pears, interstems can have greater or less yield: http://www.actahort.org/members/showpdf ... rnr=596_64

There's more, but basically based on what I've seen, I don't see any red flags. I'm in!

PS Anyone have access to http://www.actahort.org ?

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Last edited by jadeforrest on Wed Feb 25, 2009 9:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Wed Feb 25, 2009 6:27 pm
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Post Re: Interstem grafting
Aaaaah... I've got half a dozen grafted apples on M9 in pots (for several seasons now) that I'm about to put into the ground as soon as the significant other finishes stretching stainless cable on the trellis. It sounds like I'd be happier if they, including the M9, were grafted to M111 (my two already in the ground apples are both on M111, and I'll never be able to properly prune them, or effectively pick them).

Should I just say my regrets to myself and plant the babies as is, or is it actually possible to graft the M9/scion combination after the fact to M111 rootstock?

Bass ackwards, I know, but that's where I am now... :roll:

mh


Wed Feb 25, 2009 9:01 pm
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Post Re: Interstem grafting
Dave: would you recommend the B9 or the M9 rootstock for the interstem? Have you noticed much of a difference yet?

Anybody else have any experience or read anything about what would be best to use?

Marsha: I'm sorry, I have no idea what to recommend. I haven't read of any techniques where you can put a larger tree onto a smaller rootstock, except regrafting it or budding it. But I don't know much about this yet. Maybe after the M111 caught up you could?

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Wed Feb 25, 2009 9:46 pm
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Post Re: Interstem grafting
Well, in normal nursery useage you wouldn't have to aquire the interstem; you would just bud it onto the rootstock and let it grow for another year, I was in a hurry so tried shortcutting - but I don't think that's the normal practice!

And Marsha, I wouldn't regret what you've already got started; there's a reason M9 is one of the most used commercial rootstocks around! Part of the reason I wanted the M111 or Antonovka was that I had no idea where my trees were going to end up being planted or on what kind of soil; we were still looking for land at that point - and had been for 18 months; took another 6 months before we found it - on Craigslist! So really no reason to throw away the time you've got invested in your potted trees now, it isn't like M9 needs lots of support - I mostly didn't want to even have to worry about the possibility or having to water if they ended up in a dry area.

I have no preference between the M9 & the Bud 9, think that as an interstem there's probably very little difference - except that the Bud 9 has redder bark! Most of the differences have more to do with what the roots do as well as the dwarfing effect; and since I'm not using either the M9 or the Bud 9 roots, I don't care about that:) Mostly the interstem conveys the dwarfing effect, and the M111 or Antonovka roots still have their own characteristics; which I wanted - also you can plant the interstem trees deeper; which helps prevent suckers from popping up!
Dave


Wed Feb 25, 2009 11:05 pm
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Post Re: Interstem grafting
Reading some on the various links about interstems - I continue to note how fearful people are about a tree getting too large. Coming into orcharding with deer and elk in the wings - I could never get away with small trees. But - I prune yearly; with 4 Gravenstein’s on standard rootstock - I can limit those puppies to whatever size I want! Allowing them to expand only one bud a year, while taking anything too long/high back to its beginning.

Considering the near fanaticism over the eventual structure of their trees, I can hardly imagine any of us, or various posters I’ve read, not pruning yearly..? Actually, my extensive pruning experience has me leaning toward bonsai! Perhaps I’m just not with the program here -- but please, tell me why a standard apple tree (for example) couldn’t be pruned to whatever height/size one wanted? You’d have the powerful root system along with the potential to give it the entire yard, or half the orchard if you wanted. Or, show it who’s boss :mrgreen:

A friend has a series of apple & pear trees on likely 60% of standard (or store-bought rootstock) in rich bottomsoil that are a joy to step into. They’ll put on 5 foot suckers and look poised to take over the neighborhood, but hacking them back is no big deal. None are much taller than me, yet nearing 20 years old!

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Thu Feb 26, 2009 9:12 pm
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Post Re: Interstem grafting
Viron: doesn't it take a while to get a standard tree fruiting, though?

Also, it seems like you might as well make less work for yourself? I'd love to spend a lot of time out there, and do plan to prune every year, but I also plan to have a lot of fruit going on competing for my attention!

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Sun Mar 01, 2009 10:02 pm
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