Scion buds die at 1/2" green- why?

Second year attempting Williams Pride on native rootstock by top grafting- sprayed copper early against fireblight/scab etc.
Buds open nicely, then wilt/rot into a shrivelled blackish grey color. I had some second growth last year from an adventitious bud that grew about 6", but a deer got it.

This is the way I’ve been losing grafts- I’ve had good take, but what appears to be disease then takes the emergent leaves…

Any advice?


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Sounds like they are not healed enough before leading out.


They have been larger diameter than my other scions…more internal moisture to sprout with before the bark grafts callous?

Would that explain the 2nd growth- it happens after the callous forms?

I personally don’t spray copper, but it’s my understanding that it can cause foliage burn in some circumstances. Perhaps a young scion isn’t quite ready for that?

William’s Pride is very disease resistant. Is the tree it’s grafted to susceptible?

My first thought was that they leafed out before callousing and then dried out because the rootstock couldn’t supply them, but the “blackish grey color” has me wondering. I’ve lost leafed-out grafts to a lack of callousing, but they always maintained a good color. So that leaves disease. I won’t guess as to just what disease.

It’s discouraging! But somebody will have the answer.

The native rootstocks I’m grafting to have fire blight endemic to them, but seem to resist it and reach a fruitful maturity. The ones that have reached bearing age seem to be a mixture of Antonovka and Duchess seedstock. I’ve had quite a few varieties take so far…

I’ve looked through the usual photo descriptions of disease, but haven’t found any that are scion or 1/2" green specific. At that stage, almost everything looks like a fungal rot.

It’s possible that the scion was infected? Only a thought. Try changing your scion source. It’s pretty late to find scions, but maybe try a different source and add your variety next year if the next graft works. It’s not too late if you have dormant scions. The other option is to just let the rootstock grow and try summer budding. You may never know the cause, just keep trying!
Kent, wa

If you can, posting pics will be helpful. Pics of rootstocks, the failed grafts/wilt leaves, the graft union area, etc.

Some varieties are a little tougher to successfully graft. Williams Pride has a slightly lower take rate for us as well. Not sure if they are just slower to callous, have less stored energy in the scion, etc…

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Thanks for this- I mentioned the Williams Pride specifically, since it just didn’t seem to ‘get the idea’.
Our ‘heritage’ variety grafts have been great, but outside of Liberty, the more modern cultivars have been only so-so.

Not my experience with William’s Pride. I used to have 2 WP trees on M 7. Fruit in year 3. Bad planting location so I removed both trees.

Saved one skinny scionwood as an after thought. Grafted it last spring. It took without any issue. It bloomed this year but I removed the flowers.

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Interesting- thanks! My grafting is all to pre-existing, wild seedlings. A good decade of neglect and a healthy deer population left us with a few acres of graftable wild stock, so we’re doing it Johnny Appleseed style.

I have never had any issue grafting apples and pears on my existing trees. Take rates have been in the high 90%. At one point I grafted closer 100 varieties of apples and pears combined.

No, I am not that good of a grafter. I have struggled with peach, jujube and persimmon grafting.

@scottmartin49 do you notice that all Williams Pride crash each time and you see complete success with a completely different cultivar?

If that’s happening, then it’s the scions - which it seems is the likeliest “problem” occurring. For any reason…

btw, they never healed in/callused… as that’s normal death to any scion ‘dying’.

I’m not a cultivar expert of apples and if there is such a thing as apple-cultivars grafting low percentages.

That’s why I asked the question specifically. 2nd year in a row with complete failure on Williams Pride, Esopus Spitzenburg, and a long lingering failure on Wealthy. All the others have done well, or been more easily explained. After an early scare with fireblight, this year turned out to be very light on scab, so the take was generally quite good except for Williams and Spitz- Wealthy just doesn’t seem to ‘thrive’.

I’ll regraft to unrelated varieties next year to see if it isn’t some sort of rootstock incompatibility…