Apple Rootstocks for Tennessee Clay/loam soil

I agree on G30. Seems fine, but apparently hard to grow the conventional ‘stooling’ method…but perhaps as ‘test tube’ plants get cheaper to produce, it might come back.

Not familiar your town, but I’ve toured the Botanical Gardens in Brentwood, seen marvelous nursery plants in Murfreesboro, my brother has a orchard (mostly to attract deer) on a track of land near Gallatin.

McMinnville bills itself as “the nursery capital of the world”…and trees in the Smithville, McMinnville, Manchester area of Tennessee do well. Despite red clay in the soil. Middle Tennessee Nursery Association…I tried a membership w/them around 1999.

I forgot about @thecityman and @poncho65, they’re both in central TN, I think they both grow apples, along with @RobThomas.


I think the mm111 with inter stems could be ideal for you.
I really hope it works well. I considered it also, but at least for now will be using g890. I also have some on mm106 which works well here but my soil drains well.

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I have done a perk test and it drained slowly.
I think the m111/b9 interstem sounds like a good idea and I plan to learn about grafting in a year or so but currently I need to find trees ready to go in the ground. I don’t know of any retailer that has m111/b9 interstem apple trees for sale.
Thanks for the help!

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Here is what I learned from using MM111 both from experience and from reading this message board.

  1. You can induce earlier bearing by pulling down branches
  2. It is much easier to train these trees to be small if you start at the beginning. I let my trees get too big too fast. I highly recommend the delayed open center training system. Skillcult has numerous videos on training to this system.
  3. One of my favorite nurseries is Trees of Antiquity. They sell all of their varieties on MM111.
    Have fun

I don’t know any of the rootstocks of any of the trees that I had planted already… but all the ones I have grafted this year are on Bud118. We will see how it goes and I hope that I made a good choice with it. I had planned on using M111 but was told the benefits of Bud118 over the 111 and decided that that was the route for me :+1: I wish you the best and hope all goes well!

Also I am in zone 6b and have very sandy soil. That is not what you have in your part of the state from what I have read above :wink:

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I talked to the apple nursery grower at Century Farms in NC and he said he experimented with the inter-stem M111/B9 and could not tell any appreciable difference than just using the B9 rootstock.

I’m hopeful there won’t be a difference in precocious-ness, vigor, fruit set or size, etc… The only real gain I’m hoping for is a lack of (need for) staking or trellising. Common guidance on BUD9 is that the root system is not super “strong” and staking or trellising is recommended. The M111 will hopefully give them a stronger foundation to avoid that.

A semi-local orchard has trees on BUD9 and they’re not supported. They are mature though… I believe older trees don’t need it, and that it’s only the first X years where “falling over” is a concern.

If you can support them then straight grafted on BUD9 might be just the ticket. I have too many for that to be practical so am trying interstem “double grafting” as the solution.

Good luck.

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I am very skeptical of interstems solving the support problem. As soon as you root the interstem, you will start getting those growth traits. I can only imagine that you would need to grow it on the m111 for several years before burying the interstem, if you wanted support. I can see how it might help with drought and shallow-rooted dwarfs, but not support.

If the problem is the trees being ripped up by the roots from the crop load/wind, then I think the interstem would be a great solution. If the problem is trees breaking from skinny wood, then I think support is the only real solution. That support can come from the rootstock or from a trellis.

Hmm, found this:

" Note. When planting an interstem tree, you should normally make sure the soil line is below the interstem. However if you want a smaller tree, you can (although we don’t necessarily recommend it) plant the tree deeper so that the soil line reaches about half-way up the interstem. By partly burying the interstem you activate an increased dwarfing effect. Make sure you don’t entirely bury the interstem though, because then the scion variety may start to self-root."

From: Interstem rootstocks

So does that mean that the M111 would exhibit dwarf characteristics if the interstem piece started growing it’s own roots as well?

@Auburn or anyone else who has experimented with this, any words of wisdom?



From what I have read, once the dwarf interstem roots, it starts growing like a dwarf or semidwarf. The dwarf interstem/rootstock does not affect the m111, but affects the scion. Cornell claims that their stocks should be grafted 6" above the soil line for the dwarf/precocity/yield characteristics to take effect. It makes me wonder what the m111 does once it is completely buried, and the dwarf stock is rooted. The lower m111 roots probably become anchor roots, while the dwarf roots become shallow feeder roots.

While the interstem is not buried, it should grow like m111 rootstock. This is why I am thinking you would have to bury the interstem – after the m111 has been able to establish beefy scaffolds. If you root the dwarf interstem early, you start dwarfing the tree and lose some/most of the m111 traits.

I wonder if the tendency to form burr knots/root initials makes m111 desirable for doing interstems.

Hmm… Interstem questions - #3 by Windfall_rob

Cummins advising a customer:

"We strongly recommend that trees on G.11/MM.111 interstems be planted with half the interstem G.11 exposed above permanent soil level, half below soil. This permits the G.11 to take root and the tree to develop a dual root system. The precocity and productivity induced by G.11 as a rootstock should be slightly diminished. The MM.111 will provide solid anchorage; staking will not be necessary for tree support (although we do recommend temporary support to facilitate building canopy).

Solid anchorage is not the same as solid wood. I would like to see data to back up these claims. A side-by-side comparison would be nice.

Are we talking about maiden whips, or have they grown 2 years on the m111 at the nursery? How long is the interstem? Cornell recommends 4" below the soil and 6" above for Geneva rootstocks, to get the full effect.
The next part of that statement reads:
“We expect ultimate tree size to be about that attained with Malling 26
– without the problems of fire blight, crown rot, and burrknots.”

So why not plant Geneva 969 or another self-supporting rootstock in that size range, and call it a day? Why the song&dance with the interstem if it only brings it down to M26 size?

Just pointing out that the quote was what someone at Cummins had told a prospective customer. A goal I’m shooting for is a root system that is not “weak”. I don’t want to have to stake the trees to keep them from falling over. By “solid wood” are you questioning the graft breakage potential?

They “expect”… I wonder what evidence they have to back that up? I’ve read a fair amount about interstem grafting and don’t remember seeing a similar statement anywhere. I’ve read about how interstem length affects dwarfing amount and as a result have about 12" of interstem wood in the ones I grafted. Just haven’t read anything stating that burying part of the interstem ultimately affects size or really any other attribute.

@SkillCult spoke highly of interstems in 2014. I wonder if you still have these growing Steven and if you’d still speak highly of the approach today? I also want to avoid root suckers which growing this year in pots they’re sure putting out a lot of.

It’s not like the approach is all that “new” either, here’s some scientific study of interstems from 1961: I only found the word “bury” once in the document though and it didn’t really answer any of these questions. There may be other nuggets in there for anyone researching interstem though.

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By solid wood, I mean wood strong enough to support a fruit load without falling over or breaking. Most of the dwarfing rootstocks have skinny wood that has to be supported. The tree can be well anchored, but still fall over.

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“why not plant Geneva 969 or another self-supporting rootstock in that size range, and call it a day?”
Because MM111 probably performs better in a wider range of soils especially clay. Also MM111 is probably the most drought tolerant of almost any rootstock.
Personally I will be planting G969 or G890 at my place going forward but everyones soil and situation is different.

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My apple trees are mostly on M111 root with different length B9 interstems above ground. If I was starting over I would plant with about 4-6" of B9 interstem underground to help stop some of the M111 suckering. All the interstems adequately dwarf the trees. Below is a link to more information about dwarf interstems created by one of our forum members. Just notice that this is a similar link as above.


That’s what I plan on doing here in the next month or so. Growing in pots now they certainly are suckering a lot.

There was just a question of whether burying that bottom graft union would cause the final tree size to be larger. Like 50% of standard instead of the 25% one would expect on BUD9. Which doesn’t seem to make sense… And I was just wondering if anyone had any specific experience with.