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Plant Propagation, An Agriculture Corner Stone

By Mario Villarino, DVM, Ph.D, Hopkins County AriLife Extension Agent

Plant propagation is one of the corner stones of agriculture. In one way or another, everything relies into having the right plant at the right time to make a successful crop. Sometimes, those two different aspects are easily forgotten. A seedling placed at the wrong time in the field can crash the success of the crop. A weak or wrongly selected variety of plants can also make a significant impact into the future of the crop.

Propagation is a means of multiplying a plant into many more of the same type. The most common method is by collecting and planting seeds. This is referred to as sexual propagation since the pollen from one plant pollinates the female flower structures of the same plant or another plant of the same species thus creating a living seed.

Another means of propagation called asexual because no pollination is involved, but instead a section of one plant is removed and rooted to start a new plant. Examples of asexual propagation are stem cuttings, leaf bud cuttings, air layering, and tissue culture.

Grafting and budding involve removing a section from one plant and attaching it to another. This removed plant section is called a bud or scion and the plant onto which it is placed is referred to as the rootstock. The scion or bud grows to form the main structure of the new plant. It is chosen because it possesses certain desirable characteristics such as fruit size or quality, bloom size or color, or foliage qualities. The rootstock is often chosen for its ability to tolerate specific soil characteristics, resist disease or insect problems, or give a dwarfing effect to the growth of the scion.

Seed propagation usually results in a new plant that is similar, but not identical, to the parent plant(s). With asexual propagation the offspring is identical to the parent plant. The juvenile stage which seedlings go through before they are mature enough to bloom or bear fruit is bypassed with cuttings and grafting which is another desirable effect.

While propagation sounds complicated or difficult it is in fact quite simple. There are a number of different techniques which gardeners can use to propagate various plants.

I must warn you, though, that propagation is addictive. You will soon find yourself driving through the neighborhood eyeing certain plants that you would like to propagate for your own landscape. Gardening friends will learn to “frisk” your pockets for seeds and cuttings before you leave after a visit to their landscape! I should point out before turning you loose on the gardening world with this new found knowledge and skill that some plant materials are patented and may not be propagated and sold without permission and payment of royalty fees to the owner.

For more information on any agricultural topi, please contact the Hopkins County Extension Office at 903-885-3443 or email me at [email protected].

Hopkins County AgriLife Extension Office

Author: Faith Huffman

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