Budding is inserting a single bud from a desirable plant into an opening in the bark of a compatible rootstock to create an advantageous variety (cultivar) and rootstock combination. In fruit trees, T-budding or Chip budding are grafting techniques that use a single bud from the desired scion rather than scionwood with multiple buds. Budding can be used on many kinds of plants: apples, pears, peaches, and a large number of ornamentals.
To successfully bud, the scion and rootstock must be compatible, the scion buds must be fully developed and dormant, and ultimately the meristematic tissue from the scion and rootstock must be aligned with good contact. Special care to prevent the buds from drying out is necessary to complete the process.
Fruit tree rootstocks are usually budded during the seedling stage of growth when they are at least as large in diameter as a pencil. If this size is attained in June, they may be budded using cold stored scionwood and then forced into growth in a short time. When the seedling development is delayed, budding can be performed in August and early September using scionwood cut from current season growth and the buds are not forced into growth until the next spring.
In late summer, scionwood is secured from desirable varieties at the time budding is done. In the morning when temperatures are cooler, collect strong, vigorous, current season shoots. Select shoots with plump, healthy buds from areas receiving good sunlight. Very large water sprouts are not suitable for scionwood. Immediately remove the leaves from the bud stick with a sharp knife or hand shears but leave the petiole (leaf stem) intact. This stub can serve to protect the bud and also serve as a handle while the bud is being cut from the stick and inserted into the seedling. The cut surface of the bud or rootstock should not be touched since your fingers will transfer oils and salts that are harmful to the meristematic cells. Immature buds near the terminal should be removed. Ordinarily a bud stick will have 3 to 6 buds.
Store the scionwood in a labeled plastic bag to prevent drying. Store in a cool area around 32-40 degrees until needed. Scionwood should not be stored for more than a couple of days for late summer budding. June buds can be collected and stored much like pecan graftwood as described in the Collecting & Storing Pecan Propagation Wood Fact Sheet HLA-6217. When taking the scionwood to the field, caution should be used to keep buds from drying out. Keep buds in a cooler with ice to keep cool and moist.
The “T” bud and the Chip bud are the two common methods to propagate fruit trees and many ornamentals. The T bud is one of the easiest manners of propagating. When using the T bud method, the rootstock must be vigorously growing, sometimes referred to as the “bark is slipping”. This means the bark is easily peeled from the wood without tearing. Chip budding can be performed when the bark is tight so it can be used earlier and later in the season. With practice, the chip bud can be faster and quicker to heal. The basics in handling scionwood and rootstock are the same but the cuts are quite different with each method.
Specialty budding knives and suitable budding tapes can be obtained from horticultural or nursery suppliers accessible on the Internet or at some retail nurseries.