The USDA-SCRI Vegetable Grafting Project directly integrates the capacities of personnel at ten U.S. universities and the USDA Horticultural Research Laboratory in Ft. Pierce, FL specifically to help improve and maintain the competitiveness of fruiting vegetable industries in the U.S., partly by improving the science and application of vegetable grafting. The effort also relies on and strengthens the capacities of a large number of university and industry professionals lacking formal project responsibilities.
Grafting is important for a number of reasons. First, grafting emphasizes the use of genetics in overcoming abiotic and biotic crop stress. Heightened host resistance has proven time and again to be a foundational component of successful integrated crop management strategies. Just as important, creating physical hybrids through grafting can allow important traits to be employed on farms more rapidly and flexibly than traditional single-variety, genetic hybrid development. Second, grafted plants can be used in vegetable operations of nearly all sizes and types. In contrast, chemical and other tools (e.g., for disease control) are off limits to or a less viable option for some growers. Further, in contrast to pesticides, grafted vegetable plants can be prepared … and, possibly, sold … by farmers. Finally, in many regions and systems, grafted vegetable plants routinely outperform their ungrafted counterparts in terms of vigor, stress tolerance and/or yield. Overall, grafted plants can be used by nearly all growers of tomato, melon and other crops. Also, these same growers can prepare grafted plants themselves, purchase them, or create a business based on grafted plant production.
That said, preparing and using grafted plants adds risk and cost and creates many questions. Therefore, grafting is seen as a technology that can be leveraged in addressing major stakeholder concerns, not the end-goal itself. The project team and its partners use a multi-faceted approach to assist stakeholders in obtaining the best from grafting. Expert on-farm and on-station research, aggressive technological innovation, and educational and outreach opportunities focus on complementing and adding value to stakeholder investments in grafting.
This portal is designed to deliver current research-based information on the preparation, use, evaluation, and purchase of grafted vegetable plants. This portal is a product of a university, USDA and industry team funded in part by Award #2016-51181-25404 of the USDA Specialty Crops Research Initiative titled “Growing new roots: Grafting to enhance resiliency in U.S. vegetable industries.”