Rootstock Selection

Curt R. Rom

A rootstock (understock, stock) is the root system of a grafted or budded plant. Most temperate zone fruit trees are propagated by the asexual methods of grafting or budding in order to preserve the characteristics of the aerial portion, or scion, of the plant. In some cases, the scion cultivar of the plant cannot be reproduced by seed or from adventitious roots on cuttings, and so propagation by grafting onto a rootstock is necessary. Rootstocks also are used for other purposes, such as tree size control, disease resistance, or winter hardiness.

Grafting was a horticultural art for several thousand years, and in the past three centuries, the potential was realized for using selected rootstocks to affect growth and performance of scions of plants. Early horticulturists initiated programs of selection, improvement, and hybridization for superior rootstock cultivars. Subsequently, po-mologists interested in new fruit tree rootstocks established comparative trials and systematic experiments to determine edaphic, adaphic, and biotic adaptabilities and growth and productivity capabilities. This remains an important pursuit in horticulture.

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