How to graft mango 1 – Modified cleft grafting
Why would you do grafting at all?
If you wish to multiply a delicious variety of fruit, then the seedlings will be genetically different from the mother, i.e. shape, taste, colour and texture of the fruit might be different, just like a daughter is different from her mother. This applies to many fruits, but not to mangosteen as explained in an earlier blog. You can take cuttings from some fruit trees, and stimulate rooting, and the resulting trees will be identical to the mother plant. However, in some cases this is not possible, and in other species like lime (Citrus x aurantiifolia, Rutaceae), the roots are very sensitive to nematodes, which is why lime needs to be grafted on another species’ root system, quite often limeberry Triphasia trifolia (Rutaceae). The growth of a wanted cultivar in a new environment is usually enhanced if it is grafted onto a local rootstock.
Generally, if you taste a fruit in a friend’s garden and simply love it, then plant the seed, let it germinate, and then you take a young shoot from your friend’s marvellous tree, and you graft it onto the seedling.
In the case of mango (Mangifera indica, Anacardiaceae), people here in Thailand often use seedlings of the varieties ‘geu’, ‘talap naak’ and ‘chog-anan’ as rootstock. As the seeds are polyembryonic, one seed results in many seedlings. Chog-anan is delicious in itself, produces several crops a year, and given you allow it to produce some shoots, it will stimulate grafted mango cultivars to produce multiple crops too, even if they normally only produce once a year.
This is how to graft a young mango shoot onto a young rootstock (modified cleft grafting, study the picture below):
1. Buy a good knife, which you only use for grafting, and buy a sharpening stone. Sharpen the knife carefully every time before use. A right-handed person should only sharpen the right side. Hold the blade almost parallel to the stone, and move it in one direction only, away from you. Use water while sharpening your knife. After use, clean the knife and oil it to prevent rust.
2. Cut the shoot of a root stock so no leaves remain. The resulting tall stump should have a grey bark. Make a split (cleft) in the stump, about 2-3 cm deep.
3. Take a young green shoot of your wanted mango cultivar, preferably 20 days old. If you cut a mango branch, new shoots will form, and you simply harvest after 20 days.
4. Cut the end of the shoot, or scion, so it looks like a wedge. Make the side cuts of a length equal to the depth of the cleft, so the inside cells (cambium layers) of the two plants can merge.
5. Take a rubber band and tighten it just near the end of the split or cleft, making the rootstock elastic.
6. Insert the peg of the scion into the cleft and tie a string around the top of the rootstock.
7. Since the young shoot is brittle, cover it with a plastic bag rather than using grafting tape. Tighten the plastic bag at the bottom using a string.
8. Keep it in the shade for two weeks. If it is still green after two weeks, leave it for another two weeks, and then you remove the plastic bag and admire your new child.
Practice a lot, because although the theory is simple, it takes many mistakes to get an experienced hand and eye.
More mango grafting techniques:
(Sharing the advice of Dr Saha).
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Modified cleft grafting is a technique for grafting a young rootstock with a young shoot (scion).