Implementation of Novel Grafting Methods and Rootstocks for Organic and Heirloom Tomato Growers in the Midwest

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2012: $10,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Grant Recipient: Kansas State University
Region: North Central
State: Kansas
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Cary Rivard
Kansas State University


  • Vegetables: tomatoes


  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
  • Pest Management: integrated pest management
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture, transitioning to organic
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    Grafting is an effective technique for tomato growers looking to reduce soilborne disease organically and increase fruit yield. However, purchasing grafted plants is difficult in the United States as specialized nurseries in Canada cannot fill orders for small-acreage growers due to minimum plant number requirements. Furthermore, these plants are not produced organically and may not include specialty and/or heirloom varieties that many local growers utilize to capture niche markets. Many small-acreage organic growers are looking to produce plants themselves, but have difficulty propagating grafted transplants. Although grafting is relatively simple, managing the healing chamber post-grafting can be challenging and can reduce grafting success rates. This project will investigate the utility of grafting for tomato growers in the Midwest and develop propagation techniques that may increase the success as well as reduce the cost of grafting for small-acreage and organic growers. We will also conduct multiple field trials on commercial farms, university research locations, and an urban farm to investigate any potential yield effects related to different grafting techniques and rootstocks. Outcomes of this project include scientific as well as extension publications, grower workshops, tours of grafting facilities and field trials, as well as exposure to this technology through on-farm research.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The research component of this project will utilize three complementary approaches that seek to evaluate the utility of grafting for organic growers in the Midwest and develop grafting methods for small-acreage and organic growers. Specific outputs from this project include scientific publications, conference presentations, extension presentations and publications, and an in-depth (half-day) tomato grafting workshop. As of January 2012, preliminary project results from the 2011 field trials were presented at the Great Plains Vegetable Growers Conference in St. Joseph, MO.

    Project Outcomes
    Short-term outcomes in this project include – but are not limited to – grafting awareness, farmers’ grafting skill development, and a probable attitude shift towards utilization of herbaceous grafting. These short-term outcomes will potentially culminate in the intermediate short-term goal of these grafting-conscious farmers employing these new methods on their own crops. A follow-up survey of workshop participants will indicate farmers’ intentions of utilizing grafting with their next-season crops. All short-and intermediate-term outcomes will be monitored via surveys. Finally, increasing popularity and utilization of grafting techniques across the US via access to extension and scientific publications resulting from this project would be ideal long-term outcomes.

    Evaluation Plan
    We will monitor the use of and economic importance of grafting through digital evaluation tools like wireless remote “clickers” and traditional survey methods. We gathered data from (~140) audience members during the high tunnels workshop at the Great Plains Growers Conference (St. Joseph, MO) to find out about grower adoption of grafting in this region. We will continue to measure the adoption and use of information about grafting and various propagation methods by conducting detailed surveys during grower workshops as well as monitoring web site traffic, and listserv surveys.

    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.