What is a rootstock? A fruit tree’s rootstock controls primarily the tree’s size, precocity (how early the tree bears fruit), cold hardiness, and partly its disease resistance (such as fire blight). In order to grow a reliable and high quality fruit tree, growers graft the scion, which is above the ground and responsible for the fruit’s characteristics and disease resistance, onto the rootstock, which is underground. Grafting is a horticultural technique growers use to combine the tissues of two plants so that they continue to grow together with certain desired characteristics.
Rootstocks control the tree’s size. Therefore when the tree is fully mature, it can range from being dwarf (6-8′) to standard (20-30’+). However with proper pruning, you can also control trees on semi-dwarfing or semi-standard rootstock to grow to a smaller size.
What is precocity? Precocity measures how early the tree will start to bear fruit from the time the tree is planted. Dwarf rootstocks are usually more precocious than semi-dwarf or standard rootstocks, which means they will bear fruit earlier. However the fruit cultivar can also influence the precocity of the tree. For example the Northern Spy apple tree usually bears fruit late compared to other apple trees such as Honeycrisp.
Rootstocks can also control the tree’s cold hardiness, or the tree’s ability to tolerate cold temperatures. For example, the Budagovsky series, which was developed in the Soviet Union, is very cold hardy.
Rootstocks can also be resistant to diseases such as fire blight, collar rot, and woolly apple aphids. Many of the rootstocks that researchers have developed in the 20th century, such as the Geneva series for apples and OHxF series for pears, are made to be resistant to common diseases and viruses.
What Rootstock Do We Use For Our Trees?
We use different rootstocks such as dwarf (Bud 9 and G.41), semi-dwarf (EMLA 7, EMLA 111, G.890, Bud 118), and standard (we use Antonovka seedlings).
We grow our apricot trees onMyrobalan 29C, Marianna GF 8-1, and St Julien rootstocks.Myrobalan 29C is the improved version of Myrobalan and an excellent, widely adapted rootstock that has a vigorous root system. Secondly, Marianna GF 8-1 is very robust and adapts to all types of soil. Additionally it not susceptible to root asphyxia. Lastly, St Julien is a semi-dwarfing rootstock (producing a tree with a height of around 10′-15′). Additionally it is tolerant of most soils.
We grow our cherry trees on standard rootstock, Mazzard and Mahaleb (16-20ft tall at maturity. Mazzard, which is one of the oldest known sweet cherry rootstocks is the most popular rootstock in North America. Additionally, it’s great for wet and heavy soils. Moreover it is It is generally more vigorous than Mahaleb, especially in poorer soils. Mahaleb on the other hand, is great for deep soils with good drainage. Additionally it is cold hardy, precocious, and deep rooted.
We grow our pear trees on Betulaefolia (grow standard trees around 20ft), OHxF97 (grow trees 70-90% of a standard tree size), and OHxF87 (grow trees around 2/3rd of a standard tree size) rootstocks.
We grow our peach trees on Bailey and Lovell rootstocks which have high survival and make large trees. At full maturity, peach trees range from about 10-15 feet tall with proper pruning. In fact without pruning, they can grow up to 25 feet tall. Moreover Bailey rootstock is slightly dwarfing and has yield efficiency as good as or better than Lovell.
We grow our plum trees on Myrobalan, Myrobalan 29C and Marianna GF 8-1 rootstock. Myrobalan 29C is the improved version of Myrobalan and an excellent, widely adapted rootstock that has a vigorous root system and is the most tolerant of wet soils. However it has less suckering than a seedling. Marianna GF 8-1 is very robust and adapts to all types of soil. Additionally it not susceptible to root asphyxia.
Interested in growing trees? Discover more about trees in our guides or search our fruit trees.