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.