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The farmers’ workaround: Tree grafting

Planting a modern apple orchard is expensive work costing between $40,000 and $50,000 per acre. What’s more, the kinds of apples people want to eat can change. That means an orchard planted this year might not be that valuable by the time it has reached full maturity five years later.

One way apple farmers in Washington can adapt to changing tastes? Grafting. It’s an ancient process that melds two different types of apple trees together. Simply put, the stem of one variety’s leaf buds are inserted into the stalk of the tree.

Grafting isn’t cheap – it costs about $1,000 per acre. But it’s cheaper than replanting, and it’s one way for farmers to adapt relatively quickly to changing markets.