Local firm exports grafted vegetable seedlings

A moshav-based Israeli agricultural group is bringing its tailored system of grafted vegetable seedlings worldwide.

Plants at Hishtil Nurseries 370 (photo credit: Courtesy Hishtil)
Plants at Hishtil Nurseries 370
(photo credit: Courtesy Hishtil)
A moshav-based Israeli agricultural group is bringing its tailored system of grafted vegetable seedlings to locations all over the world – plants that are adjusted for survival in hot climates and resistant to many soil-borne diseases.
The company, Hishtil Nurseries, is based at Moshav Nehalim, a religious moshav located just east of Petah Tikva.
Grafting – the merging of tissues of multiple plants together, to combine different roots with different stems or flowers – is a common practice all over the globe, but is relatively new in the vegetable world, Menni Shadmi, marketing director at Hishtil, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
Much more unique is the specific niche that Hishtil is targeting with its grafting, creating vegetable seedlings whose roots are particularly water conservative and are fitting for hot environments such as those in Israel, according to Shadmi.
Grafting plants together for fruit-bearing vegetables began about 30 years ago in the Netherlands – with greenhouse fruits and vegetables like capsicum, melons and tomatoes – but “it was an isolated market share fulfilled by local suppliers,” Shadmi said.
The process caught on at Hishtil about 15 years ago, and only in the past couple of years has the company begun to enter the international market with its seedlings tailored to hot climates.
Grafting in general caught on after bans on methyl bromide went into effect across the world, “giving the growers no choices for soil fumigation” and thereby paving the way for the spread of soil-borne diseases, Shadmi explained.
“This took a heavy toll from the yield of the vegetables,” he said.
Grafting for vegetables – “a combination of very strong and resistant root, stalk and scions [the fruitbearing portion]” – generated vegetable plants that were immune to many of the most harmful soil diseases, according to Shadmi.
“Growers are forces to combat new diseases every day,” he said. “As such, based on this development, the importance and the usage of grafted plants especially in fruity vegetables is very popular.”
The agriculturalists at Moshav Nehalim then decided to take the grafting one-step further, and cultivate seedlings that can survive extreme temperatures in addition to diseases.
“We took the knowledge of grafting and have developed it and adopted it to grow in our area – with high humidity, high sun radiation, high temperature,” Shadmi said. “Plants are getting weaker and weaker under climatic pressure while the bad guys, the diseases, are enhanced and grow based on these conditions that are favorable to them.”
The only other competition that Hishtil is currently facing in its hot climate vegetable grafting is from a Dutch company called Grow Group, since American company Speedling recently dropped out of the race, according to Shadmi. Thus far, Hishtil has brought its seedlings to five nurseries throughout Israel and additional nurseries in South Africa, Turkey, Italy and Bosnia.
The seedlings arrive at nurseries at about six weeks old, in order to spare farmers from “the problematic phase of planting seeds and waiting for germination and seedling growth,” a spokesman for Hishtil said.
Turkey is using the development in order to strengthen its position as an exporter of vegetables to Europe and Asia, the spokesman explained.
African nations can potentially use the vegetables to increase food production, as the continent suffers from a severe lack in food supplies, the spokesman added.
Other future areas of interest include the United States southern Sunbelt, Mexico, South America, southern parts of Europe and the Far East, Shadmi said.
“The plans are big but our ability is somewhat lesser,” he acknowledged. “We are trying to utilize whatever we have.” Shadmi stressed, however, that the company does intend to become an emerging player in the international field of seedling grafting, which he believes has many advantages beyond disease resistance.
“In terms of environmental friendliness of course we are replacing the methyl bromide, but we also save quite a lot of water and increase yields,” Shadmi said. “We are allowing growers to have higher yields from the very same plots they have now or even growing on smaller plots and having the same yield.”