INCREASING UTILITY OF NATIVE STANDS OF PERSIMMONS

Final report for FNC20-1247

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2020: $8,335.00
Projected End Date: 01/31/2022
Grant Recipient: Southwind Farms
Region: North Central
State: Missouri
Project Coordinator:
Matthew Renkoski
Southwind Farms
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Project Information

Description of operation:

We have a 155 acre farm in Camden County and a 30 acre tract in Moniteau county. Both locations are a mix of woods and pasture. The woodlands include walnut, white and red oaks and persimmon seedlings. I have been using Best Management Practices (BMPs) and TSI practices to produce high quality walnut and oak veneer timber for over 30 years. I have a conservation plan approved by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) which includes invasive species control and wildlife release. We are an approved Family Tree Farm. I have been grafting improved varieties of persimmons and paw paw since 2014.

Summary:

Persimmons are native trees and the fruit is packed with healthy antioxidants and it fits with the Grow Native/ Grow Local food trends. Since it is well adapted, many farmers in Missouri have persimmon patches scattered on their property.

However, they are rarely utilized because wild persimmons tend to produce small, seedy fruit and only female trees bear. Grafted trees of improved varieties (larger size, fewer seeds, better flavor) are now available from nurseries but can be costly.

Grafting improved varieties to existing seedlings can improve production because: 1) The fruit will have marketable value; 2) selected scions are all female and will bear; 3) the rootstock is well adapted to the region; and 4) This is a low cost and sustainable method.

However, most grafting systems work best on small seedlings. Wild seedlings vary in size and to take advantage of the well-established root systems it would be best to also graft to the larger sized trees.

This project was designed to test/demonstrate grafting on large diameter persimmon native seedlings (.5 to 3.0-inch diameter) and measure comparative success. A second objective is to provide a preliminary economic comparison of grafting native seedlings compared to purchased nursery trees.

Based on the results of the project, I would conclude:

-The highest success rate was on 1 to 3 inch diameter seedlings

-Extensive root systems power quick and aggressive growth from scions and could result in earlier fruit production

-Grafting adapted large diameter fully established native persimmons  may have economic benefits vs. purchased grafted persimmons

-Larger diameter grafting with native persimmons using bark grafting techniques works!

-Further work/analysis on fruit production, economics, fertilization and pruning is needed

I would estimate that over 500 people were exposed to this project via our various outreach approaches.  Perhaps around 300 were farmers or landowners.  I also found that the YouTube channel was the most effective method to generate interest and dialogue with potential adopters.  I know that 4 or 5 growers are experimenting with persimmon grafting after hearing about the project but the hope is that there are many more that I do not know about.  

Project Objectives:

Project Objectives are:

1. Evaluate bark inlay/arrowhead grafting methods on large persimmon seedlings (.5, 1.0, 1.5. 2.0, 2.5, 3.0 inches in diameter). Share data through field days and conference/poster presentations.
2. Provide a preliminary economic comparison of grafted natives vs. purchased grafted trees.
3. Promote and increase the use of improved persimmons with Missouri farmers through public relations articles and conferences

Research

Materials and methods:

I have grouped my native persimmon patches into 12 separate and distinct groups (zones) based on location (sun or partly shady), soils, and slope. These grouping also enhance the chance of genetics being the same in each zone.

My plan would be to select and mark different sizes (.5 inch to 3 inch) in each zone if possible. This would provide the best side-by-side comparisons. After grafting, measure and document grafting takes, vigor ratings, and lengths of bud growth. I will also capture photographs and videos of grafts and growth during the season.

For the field day, we would:
- Introduce the concept of utilizing existing wild persimmons
- Share the measurements /data comparing of the grafting of different sizes
- Share the data of grafted trees vs. purchased trees
- Share pictures and videos
- Demonstrate the grafting techniques
For presentations/posters (at MNGA and NAFEX meetings), I would use a Power Point document using the three elements above, plus a preliminary economic comparison.

Research results and discussion:

My 2020 project was designed to test and demonstrate grafting of large diameter persimmon native seedlings (.5 to 4.0-inch diameter) and measure comparative success. A second objective is to provide a preliminary economic comparison of grafting native seedlings compared to purchased nursery trees.

For these larger persimmons (anything larger than .5 inch) seedlings I used a bark grafting approach. 

Photo 1

The system I personally utilized is a combination of the arrowhead technique taught by Dr. Bill Reid (retired) at Kansas State University and the method promoted by Oklahoma State Extension.

https://Northernpecans.blogsot.com

https://youtu.be/sqsZcubCnrk

Both systems were used and demonstrated primarily on pecans, so I made some minor adjustments to persimmons and their characteristic bark.

After completing my bark grafting this spring, I would make these general suggestions:

  • Invest in a bark lifter or a grafting knife with a built-in bark lifter.
  • A stool or chair will save your back some strain if you plan to work a lot of trees.
  • Do some whittling practicing ahead of time to perfect your scion shaping as fitting to the cut rootstock is critical.
  • It is important to use whatever methods/material you prefer (aluminum foil, plastic coverings, wax/bark healing compound) to protect the scion and rootstock from drying out after grafting. When you are using the bark approach with larger trees you will be exposing significant plant tissue to the elements.
  • Tendonitis in your wrist could happen!

I grafted around 200 native persimmon large diameter seedlings this spring between May 5 and June 8. What else was I going to do during the COVID-19 pandemic? As of late June, about 85% of those grafts were successful (meaning at least one bud had developed a branch).

Photo 2

Photo 3

By December, the average had dropped to 77%.  The difference is due to wind damage and deer damage on healthy, successful grafted trees.

I took measurements and notes on scion growth and vigor by seedling size.  This table summarizes my findings.

Table 1

 

2020 Persimmon Grafting (Ranch and Moniteau Co)

 
           

Location

Size Ranges

#

% success (12/1/20)

Vigor (1-5)

Growth inches

Moniteau

< I .0 inch

8

86

4.1

8.2

 

1 - 2 inch

14

84

3.9

13

 

2- 3 inch

14

78

4.3

18.4

 

3- 4 inch

4

70

4.3

20

 

> 4 inch

       

S. Camden/Barry

< I .0 inch

11

74

3.5

9

 

1 - 2 inch

24

83

3.8

12.1

 

2- 3 inch

30

80

4.2

17

 

3- 4 inch

16

70

4

21.3

 

> 4 inch

6

66

3.7

16

N. Camden

< I .0 inch

12

85

3.5

8.9

 

1 - 2 inch

36

80

4.3

11

 

2- 3 inch

38

80

4.1

18.1

 

3- 4 inch

12

76

4.1

19.5

 

> 4 inch

5

50

3.6

17.5

Total

< I .0 inch

31

81

3.7

9

 

1 - 2 inch

74

78

4

15

 

2- 3 inch

82

80

4.2

18.3

 

3- 4 inch

32

72

4.1

20.2

 

> 4 inch

11

58

3.7

17

   

230

77

   
           

 

Variety details are in Table 2 (Ranch site only).

 Table 2

 

Ranch only

 
 

Varieties grafted in 2020

       

Variety

Grafted

Success (12/1/20)

I-94

12

9

75%

Elmo

7

6

86%

Dollywood

12

9

75%

Celebrity

12

9

75%

Early Golden

14

12

86%

Prok

9

7

78%

Lena

29

20

69%

Early Jewel

6

6

100%

Aunt Lil

3

1

33%

100-42

16

10

63%

100-46

15

9

60%

WS19-10

4

3

75%

WS8-10

10

8

80%

Osage

8

8

100%

Ichi

16

12

75%

Saigo

4

1

25%

GYXRoss

3

3

100%

 

180

133

74%

       

 

Below are additional photos of some of the successful 2020 grafted trees taken in September 2020.

Photo 4

Photo 5

Here are some pictures of a few large diameter trees I grafted in 2018 and 2019 and how they looked this summer.

Photo 6

Photo 7

 

Preliminary economic comparisons are below:

Table 3

  Initial cost Planting cost Grafting cost Maint. cost Total cost per tree
Large dimeter Grafted tree      $       4.00  $       4.00  $       8.00
Purchased 2.5 ft Tree  $    45.00  $       2.00    $       3.00  $    50.00

This preliminary review would indicate that the starting costs per tree is significantly less when you graft existing trees on your property versus if you buy already grafted nursery trees.  And based on my experience, you will get to fruit production sooner.  However, this does not take into consideration the advantage of precise tree placement that you would get if you were freshly planting trees exactly where you wanted them (as in an orchard scenario).

At year end of 2020, here would be my conclusions from my project:

  • Growers can successfully graft larger diameter persimmons (using a bark grafting technique) 
  • These already established trees/roots systems will provide outstanding scion/branch growth and potentially quicker fruit production
  • The highest success rate was on 1 to 3 inch seedlings
  • Grafting already adapted native persimmons may have economic starting costs benefits vs. purchased grafted persimmons

This project has been very enjoyable on many fronts. Andy Thomas always told me that anyone can graft—and I proved it is true. Spending time outside in the spring and just being in the middle of Mother Nature (plants and animals) coming to life was a calming and reassuring way to endure the COVID chaos as the pandemic raged. And, I really believe there are many rural area landowners that could benefit from utilizing existing trees on their property. This work may give persimmon growing a little momentum going forward.

There have also been some side benefits to this project. This spring (to the chagrin of their grandmother) I taught two of my grandchildren to accurately spit persimmon seeds 6 feet or further! That way they can socially distance and still practice a new craft that does not require a handheld device.

Finally, I want to thank and acknowledge others who helped me design the project. These folks provided support, scions, and guidance: Dr. Howard Roberts, Jerry Lehman, Dr. Ramon Arancibia, Sara Jean Peters, Andy Thomas, Patrick Byers.

 

 

 

Participation Summary
1 Farmer participating in research

Educational & Outreach Activities

1 Consultations
1 On-farm demonstrations
1 Online trainings
3 Published press articles, newsletters
1 Webinars / talks / presentations
1 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

295 Farmers
2 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

I wrote articles describing the project (including reference to SARE) and then shared with the newsletter coordinators for the Missouri Fruit and Nut growers association (MNGA) and the National Fruit growers association (NAFEX).  They then included the articles in their newsletters - MNGA Newsletter Summer 2020 and POMONA Fall 2020.  There are about 250 members of MNGA and 800 members of NAFEX.

I also set up a YouTube channel called PERSIMMOM POP grafting and included three videos demonstrating grafting and talking about the benefits.  SARE was also mentioned as I told the story of the project.  As of 6/5/21, 425 people have reviewed.  I have 9 followers and fairly frequent communication back and forth about persimmon grafting.

 

I had two field days.  One virtual  (Zoom) held in conjunction with the University of Missouri Extension - this was held May 3, 2021.  There were 33 people on the call.

https://umsystem.zoom.us/j/97940343945?pwd=UXBHcFhaazl6ak1hMW9SZ1FXWkc2Zz09

 

The second field day was the MNGA (Missouri Nut and Fruit Growers Association) grafting spring meeting.  I demonstrated the Arrowhead bark inlay grafting technique with a Dollywood variety on a 1.5 inch tree.  There were 25 people attending.  I also made a presentation on the project in both the virtual and regular field day using the Power Point deck below.

SAREPP

 

Pomona newsletter

I included mostly photos in the MNGA article because I had just completed the grafting.  The FALL NAFEX article included pictures and data.

MNGA newsletter

Learning Outcomes

295 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
Lessons Learned:

The main objective in this project (because of the time constraint) was to test whether bark grafting on large diameter persimmon seedlings would work.  I believe we confirmed that:

  1) using bark grafting on existing persimmon seedlings is a viable option 

  2) large sized seedlings (1-3 inches diameter) work best and are likely to get to fruit production quicker than buying smaller grafted trees

  3) Preliminary economic comparisons show advantages to this approach but location of the native stands may not be ideal (vs. planting newly grafted trees)

 

More advanced economic comparisons are needed going forward to better confirm fruit comparisons and variety comparisons.  Also, I would point out that I personally believe the right approach is to use BOTH nursery produced grafted trees and then take advantage of your own naturally occurring seedlings for grafting.  I do not believe the answer is one or the other.

Project Outcomes

4 Farmers changed or adopted a practice
5 New working collaborations
Success stories:

Through the different outreach efforts, I have received numerous emails and phone calls about persimmon grafting and the availability of improved varieties.  I can point to 4 to 5 that actually tried their hand at grafting in 2021.  Hopefully there will be more going forward.  The YouTube channel seems to be a very effective means because it is a video and easily found with a Google search, and, the material is accessible 24/7.  I continue to get interest and questions.

Recommendations:

If this idea of utilizing existing persimmon seedlings catches on, I would recommend that we need more studies on:

  • pruning persimmons for fruit production
  • fertilizing persimmons for fruit production
  • optimum spacing for fruit production
  • further economic analysis of costs per tree or lb. of fruit
  • optimum fruit harvest techniques
  • optimum fruit storage
  • successful fruit marketing/applications
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.