Science Into Practice - Rootstocks for tree fruit

Improved rootstocks are necessary to maintain sustainable and profitable top-fruit production.

Dwarfing remains a main factor for growers as a means to reduce production costs during picking and pruning.

Other desirable characteristics include induction of precocious and reliable cropping, ease of propagation, freedom from suckers, resistance to pests and diseases and good anchorage. Current concerns over changing weather patterns also point to the need for both drought and flood tolerance.

East Malling Research (EMR) together with the HDC (through project TF 182) and the International New Varieties Network set up the East Malling Rootstock Club in June 2008. It continues to evaluate germ plasm generated at EMR during previous funding arrangements and aims to develop outstanding rootstocks for growers in the UK and overseas.

Each year, more than 1,000 new apple and pear seedlings are raised from crosses and planted for assessing. Apple parents include dwarfing genotypes such as M27, M9 and Bud.9, semi-vigorous types with good anchorage such as M116 and AR86-1-20, and sources of pest and disease resistance including various stocks from the 'Geneva Series'.

Pear parents include some of the best 'Old Home x Farmingdale' selections, precocious heavy cropping genotypes like PB11-30 as well as accessions of other Pyrus species with excellent pest and disease resistance and rooting. The results of the assessments are available via the HDC's annual reports for TF 182.

Horticultural Development Company

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