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Veg Plotting: An Update on Grafted Tomatoes -
June 18, 2012
"A couple of months ago I had the opportunity to see how grafted tomatoes (and other grafted plants) are produced courtesy of Suttons Seeds. As my previous post about them is in my all time top 10, I couldn't resist going along. As you can see it's a mind boggling operation - horticulture on an industrial scale. There's millions of plants at various stages of growth in the greenhouses, all growing under their most suitable conditions and the ever watchful sensors of the computers. Conditions vary (light, temperature, watering) from germination through to when the plant is dispatched to customers. I was pleased to hear a biofuel boiler is onsite to generate some of the heating required. Before I got to see these plants, I had to undertake a fair amount of plant hygiene measures: not handling tomatoes for a couple of days before my visit, plus washing my hands when I first got onsite and also going through disinfection mats so I didn't bring in anything of concern on my shoes. Next year, I'll probably have to suit up and wear a fetching cap over my hair as the hygiene measures are set to be increased. Such measures are understandable when producing plants on this scale, especially as they're supplying commercial ventures in the UK and abroad and so cannot afford to be blamed for any crop failures if and when they occur. Here's the start of the grafting process. Those fingers are lightning fast at picking off the tops of the plants! These trays contain rootstock. Just like for apple grafting (and elsewhere where this technique is used), the angle of the rootstock and plant top stems have to be just right for the graft to take. Here you can see the plant top being joined with its rootstock and how tiny the plants are when it's done. And yes, that is a moving conveyor belt you can see, so there's several other people waiting down the line out of my camera shot to deal with the rest of the plants speeding past. And here's a grafted plant ready for potting up. Note the...
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