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Natural fruit tree growth vs. grafted trees from nurseries

 
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Hi,

in various permaculture publications i have come across the
advanatages of natural grown trees:
- more productivity per area
- they don't need pruning and therefore don't deteriorate when you walk
away and leave them be

The biggest disadvantage seems that with a tall tree the birds do
most of the harvesting for you, or it is at least very unconvenient to harvest.

Also in a forrest garden setting with pruned trees you can get more light
to the ground and therefore grow more stuff on the ground.

On the other hand i have read that when you prune fruit trees once,
it is a lifelong commitment, see Fukuoka when he inherited his fathers
mandarines and stopped pruning them resulting in disaster.

What really gets me emotional about this whole topic, is
that in one of the books i read something like "You might not have
seen a naturally grown apple tree in your life".

Thinking about it, it's probably true... so i would really
like to have that type of trees just for the sake of having them,
so that i can point to it.

Now with some pro's and con's of pruning sketched out i have a question:

Is it even possible to grow a "natural" tree from grafted nursery stock?

I mean what i see on sale are basically 1-2 metre long sticks with
an visibly offset grafting union and few to no branches.

Somehow i think that is not even close to what a "natural" tree grown from
seed would look like. So i also doubt the longevity/durability of such a plant.

Can somebody please enligthen me on the topic of planting grafted nursery stock
and letting it grow as it pleases? Has such a tree even a change of becoming one
of those monumental trees in the landscape or is it destined to perish after a few decades,
be it from unnatural form or because of the grafting union or because a transplanted tree
will never have the root system like one that was planted from seed?

Edit: Does someone know how i can change the subforum? Right now the topic is in "cover crops", should be in "trees".
 
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Location: SW PA USA zone 6a altitude 1188ft
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You can "stool" a seedling ( google the term ). This procedure raises the soil level so that roots form from the variety that's grafted to the rootstock on your seedling. The tree will grow to full size and may shed the rootstock. I'm not sure if you'll get a taproot; I'd guess not. I'm also not sure what traits that usually derive from the rootstock will still be retained. Traits like disease resistance.
Here's a link to an article called Propagating Clonal Rootstocks by A. N. Roberts

If you have a tree you could also take a lot of cuttings from a tree you have and root them. I took maybe 50 cuttings from my Cox's Orange Pippin apple tree last spring to use for sweet pea supports. Two of the cuttings rooted and made it to dormancy. With luck one may last another season.
 
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Location: Peace River Region, British Columbia, Canada
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Grafted fruit trees are cloned cultivars.  They are not natural.  A cultivar responds to your careful cultivation
and the altered environment that results by producing larger, sweeter fruit more productively.  
Natural fruit trees are seedlings.  Wild species fruits will grow true to seed and be perfectly adapted to its native
environment but wild fruits are smaller, less sweet, and may be sour and or astringent.  Seedlings of domestic fruits
will be hybrids and will vary greatly in size, sweetness, flavor, and may be astringent.  Sometimes you
will get lucky and discover a larger sweeter one with good flavor.  The act of cultivation encourages the development
of desirable characteristics.  Natural conditions of competition and survival tend to produce wild characteristics in
fruit.  Planting seedlings and selecting the best is fruit tree breeding.   Growing grafted cultivars is the easiest way
to reproduce the best fruits from breeding.   Natural fruit exists to survive and perpetuate itself through its seeds.
We cultivate fruit to produce fruit that serves our needs and desires.  Natural in this case is not better.
 
R. Han
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Maybe i should try to be more precise with how i imagine natural growth:
A big vigorous tree that will produce for many decades without human intervention.

Now how does grafted nursery stock with truncated roots and graft union age?
 
pollinator
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depends partly on the rootstock used. many modern nurseries use almost entirely semi-dwarf rootstocks, which definitely don’t last as long as own-roots seedlings or even trees grafted on standard-size rootstocks. best of both worlds might be seed-grown trees with grafts farther up that lead to individual cultivar branches.
 
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In the western US, many “natural” apple and plum trees have grown along roadsides where the workers who built the highways tossed their cores/pits. The campground down the road from me has perennial human-bear interactions due to the 100yr old fruit trees growing feral around it on the edge of old growth redwood forest. I have also started many apple trees from seed with mash from cider pressings.

 
Rene Poulin
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R. Han wrote:Maybe i should try to be more precise with how i imagine natural growth:
A big vigorous tree that will produce for many decades without human intervention.

Now how does grafted nursery stock with truncated roots and graft union age?



Dwarfing stocks definitely have shorter lifespans. Full size or seedling stocks live the longest.  Burying the
Graft union will result in topgrowth that is much more resilient to damage and death than otherwise.  I grow both dwarf
and full size trees because I want early fruit and long life.   Full size stocks have a much better chance of naturalizing for a time.
There are no guarantees.  Without human intervention the trees chances are a lottery.
Tap roots are optional.  The most important roots on a fruit tree are the surface hair roots.
 
R. Han
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Rene Poulin wrote: Burying the
Graft union will result in topgrowth that is much more resilient to damage and death than otherwise.  



I have been warned not to do this, as the graft union may rot and kill the tree.
Is it maybe viable for some species or do you have a source for this?
 
Rene Poulin
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Location: Peace River Region, British Columbia, Canada
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R. Han wrote:

Rene Poulin wrote: Burying the
Graft union will result in topgrowth that is much more resilient to damage and death than otherwise.  



I have been warned not to do this, as the graft union may rot and kill the tree.
Is it maybe viable for some species or do you have a source for this?



If the graft union is fully grown over by callous tissue and bark there should be no way for rot to set in.  Many if not
most of my trees have buried graft unions.
The only graft unions that should not be buried are dwarf stocks.
Allowing the scion to root will allow the tree to grow to a full size and the early fruiting characteristics of the tree
will be lost.  I have a backyard nursery where I graft most of my own apples, plums and Pears.  Some of my stock is seedlings
and tissue cultured on its own roots.  

I belong to a fruit growers group and one of my mentors is a tree breeder, nurseryman
and plant disease pathologist,  he emphatically recommends burying grafts.  

 
R. Han
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Rene Poulin wrote:
If the graft union is fully grown over by callous tissue and bark there should be no way for rot to set in.



Here they usually cut of the top of the rootstock and graft the scion in from the side leaving the cut off exposed.
like in this picture:
)

I suppose trees grafted in this way are not suited for burrying the graft union?
 
Rene Poulin
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R. Han wrote:

Rene Poulin wrote:
If the graft union is fully grown over by callous tissue and bark there should be no way for rot to set in.



Here they usually cut of the top of the rootstock and graft the scion in from the side leaving the cut off exposed. (like in this picture https://botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/14596678577_c3e4bca010_o-360x234@2x.jpg)
I suppose trees grafted in this way are not suited for burrying the graft union?



Most commercial trees are budded in the early fall on the Side of the stock.  I graft dormant scions on the top of the stock in spring but no matter.
If you bury the topgrowth it will root and even if the rootstock then rotted and perished the top would just grow on its own from there.  This has not been  an issue
for my mentor with decades of experience.
 
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I've buried the grafts on a hundred or more fruit trees recently and seen no negative effects so far. In fact, I've only seen positive things from it, combining it with no or very minimal pruning.

I also like to wound the grafted variety to encourage it to send out its own roots. I feel like the trees will live longer that way, and be healthier, long lived trees, growing in a more natural way.

From my experience it's possible to convert a previously pruned tree into a naturally shaped tree, it just gets a lot harder as the tree gets bigger.
 
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greg mosser wrote: best of both worlds might be seed-grown trees with grafts farther up that lead to individual cultivar branches.


This is the path I've chosen, but I probably won't do more than one cultivar per tree for the sake of keeping track.
gift
 
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