Grafting almond trees

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Almonds germinating in the field

I tested this alternative system to fill in the holes of the few failed trees in the orchard that was planted in 2013. I have set new orchards in 2015 using this practice.  It demands extra care, but it does well. I only use common varieties free from breeder’s rights.

 

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4 months old seedling

The soil was tilled 40 cm deep with a subsoiler in early January. The seeds were sown in mid February. I selected seeds according to the insights explained in the entry “Resilient rootstock”. I put 4 almond seeds with shell per site. They were buried 5 cm deep, close to the tutor. They all sprouted in mid April. I kept just one of the several sprouted almonds per site and let them grow protected by a plastic tube. In August, they had grown tall enough to be grafted the following month.

 

canutillo budding
Ring budding

The right time to graft the trees with the desired variety is late August and early September. This can also be done in the second half of May next year. The adequate technique for rosaceae is shield budding. There is plenty of literature on how to perform this, but for thin and young plants there is a variant: ring budding. This is suitable for shoots less than 5 mm wide. It consist of taking a full ring with one or two buds from the desired variety and fitting it in the rootstock shoot that has been peeled like a banana, as shown in the draw. If they fit well it is not even necessary to tie them. During the following weeks it is important to eliminate the rootstock buds that are close to the budding ring.

Shot from budding. October 2013
Shot from budding. October 2013

The bud may grow that same autumn or just keep dormancy until next spring. In the final picture you can find a tree that was sown in February 2013 and budded in early September that same year. The budding generated a nice shot in October, which was the base for 2014 main branches. It seemed to be tender, but it stood extreme cold in winter.

I budded a few almond trees in the previous couple of years. The outcome was good, so in 2015 I have been ready to bud entire orchards. It has not been as wonderful as expected, but good enough.

I budded 440 first leaf trees during the first week of September. I took out the shoots that started growing from the rootstock close to the budded ring during the two following weeks.The performance was quite clear three weeks after budding. Most successful trees showed sweelled buds or green shots. Failures were bad looking. I calculated that 4 out of 5 budded trees were successful, which means 1 out of 5 failed.

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Successful 3 weeks old budding. 2015

I explain failures as a result of budding some very thin and tender rings. Another reason may be that this year has been very dry, since there has been almost no rain since March and I do not irrigate.

Failed budding
Failed bud. 2015

On the face of it, the outcome is not great. However, the successful rate is good enough to raise a full blown orchard with no problem. Almond trees take 4 to 5 years to enter production. The failed trees keep the rootstock healthy and can be budded again next year in May and September. That means that the 80 % success rate of each chance would achieve a 96 % success in the orchard next time and  99 % at the end of 2016, when trees are second leaf. In terms of practicalities I just have to re-bud the failed trees during the next two years and this orchard would be raised perfectly.

In 2016 I budded trees in the third week of August  and it performed even better than those budded in September 2015. Trees budded in May 2016 also performed great, despite that buds seemed to be very tender.

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