by Jose Perez, University of Florida
Grafting has been used for thousands of years to propagate and improve tree crops. For vegetable crops this technique is relatively new. Use of grafting for disease management in vegetable production was first introduced about 90 years ago in watermelon to help manage fusarium wilt, said Dr. Xin Zhao, an Associate Professor at the Horticultural Sciences Department of the University of Florida. Vegetable grafting has been used extensively in Asian countries such as China, Japan, and South Korea; primarily employed to help manage soilborne diseases in intensive cultivation systems.
Interest in vegetable grafting is growing in the U.S. in recent years as more farmers are now looking for management alternatives to soil fumigation and integrated approaches for soil-borne disease management. There is also interest from organic growers who have limited disease management tools and from growers using heirloom or specialty cultivars that lack a good disease resistance package. Dr. Zhao has carried out research on vegetable grafting since 2008; specifically on tomatoes, melons, and watermelons. Grafting can be used for other vegetable species, but due to its cost it has mainly been used in high-value solanaceous and cucurbit crops.