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Cut flowers: enhancement of quality in low energy production system by management of pre-harvest factors - HH1528SPC

In the context of the continuing increase in UK cut flower imports, this project adopts a generic approach to improving the quality of cut flowers to the high standards required in the multiple-dominated marketplace. The work will be performed in low cost plastic structures that offer UK growers the opportunity to economically produce higher quality over an extended season.

The approach is to manipulate pre-harvest culture (manipulation of balance and timing of nutrient supply together with water management) to change plant characteristics. These include structure and physical strength, bud development and uniformity, water relations and assimilate levels and their associated effect on post-harvest life. The possibility of adapting from food technologies low cost, quick methods of identifying and quantifying assimilates (as carbohydrates) will be explored as both a predictive tool for assurance of product vase life and also as a feedback model for cultural inputs.

For the cut-flower product to be acceptable, packers and multiples require confidence that the product will cope with physical stress through the distribution chain and still provide, typically, a guaranteed vase life of ten days. Post-harvest chemical treatments are well developed but still fail to ensure that some potentially successful crops achieve commercial acceptance and cannot influence some inherent characters such as stem strength, branching and bud formation. This project will examine methods of manipulating these characters before the flower stem is harvested.

Better understanding of this pre-harvest process will be relevant for satisfying product assurance schemes by proving that inputs are timely and appropriate. These methods offer the potential for UK production of species that currently fail to meet market standards despite being commercially interesting and not being available from other sources.

Competitiveness for the grower is important. It is apparent from current work that quality issues will drive production to a mixed system involving the combination of outdoor and temporary plastic covers (Spanish tunnels). Many crops attractive to the market are failing to meet fundamental tests of quality including vase-life requirements and robustness in the distribution chain. Improving these features would make more product that is suitable for UK production competitive in the marketplace. Weed control is a limiting factor of production of flowers in these systems, and during this work the opportunity will be taken to assess, on a generic basis, optimum weed control strategies.
1. Determine the effects of pre-harvest inputs of nutrient supply, balance and timing and water availability on plant strength, branching structure and flower development in flower crops grown under low cost low energy structures.
2. Analyse the effect of pre-harvest inputs on vase-life quality.
3. Explore the effects of pre-harvest inputs on plant carbohydrate levels and distribution at harvest and examine the prediction of vase life from carbohydrate levels at harvest.
4. Produce generic recommendations to enable market quality criteria to be met.
5 Carry out technology transfer from the project, including producing generic recommendations for growers to enable market quality criteria to be met.
Project Documents
• Final Report : HH1528SPC_final report_CSG15   (974k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2000

To: 2004

Cost: £362,201
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Horticulture Research International
Energy Efficiency              
Fields of Study