False economy?

Like a lot of people who are into permaculture, I’m pretty keen on recycling, upcycling and the various other forms of non-bicycle related cycling that waste managers go on about.  It is great to save something from landfill and give it another go.  Timber, corrugated iron, old windows, posts, poles, bits of metal, wood stoves…. I’ve got a few piles of goodies around the place!

There are times, however, where upcycling might not be the best idea.  In the last fortnight, I’ve visited two places where apple grafts are covered with twisted plastic bags rather than commercial grafting tape.  When I first heard the idea, I thought it was a very clever re-use… but then I learned a bit more.  Both grafters seemed to have high failure rates: one suggested about 30% failure of apples and the other more than 50%.  Of course other factors could be at play, but since most apple grafters I know get only about 5% failure I’m a little cautious.

On one farm, I helped out in the nursery by removing tape and found many of the trees severely constricted.  Check out these photos:

The bags were tied tightly (especially at the top of the covered area) and had no ability to stretch under pressure, so when the trees started to grow in Spring, they swelled above the constriction but couldn’t do so at the point of the graft.  Once the bags are removed, the graft area can grow out and I’m sure six months would make a world of difference; the level of constriction would be much less as the graft area ‘caught up’ with the area above it.  Unfortunately, several of the grafts didn’t get that chance; a light flurry of wind was all it took to cause them to fall over – hinging on the thin weak graft area.  🙁

I think I’ll keep using commercial grafting tape.  Plastic bags might have other uses, but I don’t think apple grating is one of them.