What products are commercial nurseries offering?
The nursery business is evolving and offering a wide range of product options to respond to grower needs. High density orchards have increased the number of trees per acre as well as planting costs. Both growers and nurseries are seeking new products to lower costs, shorten the wait time for trees, and push orchards into production sooner.
As shown in the list below, many of these new products have advantages and drawbacks that growers should consider:
Spring Budded Trees
The rootstock is planted in the fall and budded in the early spring of the next year. Trees will be dug the following year and delivered in the spring. This is considered a one-year tree. Trees typically achieve caliper size ranging from 3/8” to 5/8”. The smaller caliper size trees may not appeal to some growers. However, many of the spring budded trees have tissue culture rootstock which has been shown in research to stimulate tree growth.
Sleeping Eye Trees
The rootstock is planted in the spring and budded with the scion variety in the late summer of the same year. Trees are dug in the fall and stored for delivery the following spring. The tree will have only a calloused bud when it is delivered. While this product is low-cost, it is also high risk. Sleeping eyes are more susceptible to winter injury, deer damage, and disease. Even in the best circumstances, growers may still lose 10-15%, but certain conditions could lead to even greater losses. Nurseries generally do not offer warranties on these trees.
Bench Grafted Tree
The rootstock is dug in the fall and grafted to a scion in the winter. These trees are lined out (planted) in the spring and harvested the following fall, stored, and delivered in the next spring. Bench grafts costs less and provide growers additional time to decide on varieties; however, caliper size will be smaller than two-year trees.
Some nurseries also offer bench grafts that are not planted in the nursery after grafting. This product is a rootstock with several inches of the scion variety grafted on top. These trees have similar risks to sleeping eyes.
Potted trees are designed to reduce transplant shock and encourage faster growth on young trees. The newer potted tree products often use biodegradable pots that do no need to be removed prior to planting. While these products are smaller in caliper and height, they are promoted as having a healthy root system. Biodegradable potted trees have yet to be tried on a large scale by most eastern growers as there is not a cost effective method of shipping large orders east.
Two Year Finished Tree
Two year trees begin when a nursery lines out rootstock in the spring. The rootstocks are chip budded in the summer of that same year. The trees are then grown for another season/year. After being harvested in the fall they are put in cold storage and delivered the following spring. (e.g. A tree budded in 2019 will be delivered in 2021.) These trees are usually larger in caliper with more branching than one-year products. Two-year trees are more costly than other products, but for most growers, they are often the safest way to ensure earlier returns on plantings.
The knowledgeable staff at Summit Tree Sales is happy to discuss these product options with growers as they plan for future plantings.
What’s New in Rootstocks?
An abundance of new rootstock options are available for growers to choose from. Many of these rootstocks have advertised benefits that may make them appealing options for future year plantings. For commercial growers, switching rootstocks can feel like a leap of faith. While researchers work hard to provide detailed information on rootstock characteristics, research trials cannot account for the many variable conditions (e.g. soil, climate, scion compatibility, disease pressure) that occur in commercial orchards. It may take well over a decade for growers to feel they have a handle on how a rootstock performs. Despite this, new rootstocks may offer advantages that make it worth the risk, including improved precociousness and productivity as well as resistance to diseases and cold damage.
Below are some resources on new rootstock introductions growers may want to consider before ordering trees.
Bud 10™ was bred by Dr. Budagovsky, who also introduced the popular Bud 9 rootstock. Bud 10 has been advertised as having many of the same characteristic as Bud 9 (fire blight resistance, cold hardy specifically). Bud 10 is more vigorous than Bud 9, landing closer to Nic29 or Pajam2 on vigor charts. Bud 10 is not recommended for a challenging replant site.
New Rootstocks in the Geneva® series:
Geneva® 969 was introduced by Cornell University as an alternative to older semi-dwarfing rootstocks such as M7 or M106. However, growers in western states are finding that it sizes more like an M26 which has proved beneficial on low vigor varieties. Eastern growers should be cautious of these claims, as G.969 is still reported to be an M7 size tree in places such as New York, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. It has many of the qualities common to the Geneva® series, including fire blight resistance, cold hardiness, and replant disease tolerance.
Geneva® 213, Geneva® 214, Geneva® 222, Geneva® 202, and Geneva® 814
All of these options fall in the M9 to M26 size range and are promoted as fire blight resistant, cold hardy, and replant tolerant. With so many new options from Geneva®, growers often are stuck taking whatever inventory is available at the time. Most of these rootstocks are not planted in great numbers yet, so grower experience is limited. It may be best to trial these rootstocks before moving to a large scale planting.
Here are some helpful resources on Genevas:
A couple other thoughts on Geneva® rootstock:
– Many of the older Geneva® rootstocks (specifically G11 and G41) work well for growers. They have been planted on large scales and information exists on potential challenges.
– While some of the rootstock options fall in the semi-dwarf vigor range, tree support is still recommended.
– Virus free scion wood should be used on the newer Geneva® rootstocks. Certain variety/rootstock combinations have not been compatible.