The postharvest performance of many ornamental plants varies considerably among cultivars (Halevy and Mayak, 1979). This variation can often be related to differences in the capacity of floral tissues to synthesize and/or perceive the plant hormone ethylene (Muller et al., 1998; Serek and Reid, 2000; Wu et al., 1991a). Ethylene is the primary promoter of floral organ abscission and senescence in a wide range of flowering plants (van Doorn, 2001; Woltering and van Doorn, 1988). This gaseous molecule binds to transmembrane regions of receptor proteins in plant cells and activates downstream gene transcription and translation (Bleecker and Kende, 2000).
Hybrid Tea roses (Rosa ×hybrida) are among the most economically important and genetically diverse cut flowers (Cairns et al., 2000). Although roses are not typically classified as a highly ethylene sensitive commodity (Woltering and van Doorn, 1988), their response to ethylene varies. Reid et al. (1989) showed that treatment of 27 rose cultivars with 0.5 μL·L−1 ethylene for 2 d accelerated, inhibited, or had no effect on rates of flower opening. The effects of ethylene on vase life were, however, not reported. Observations by commercial growers suggest that current rose cultivars continue to differ in their sensitivity to ethylene as judged by variable flower opening and vase life (A. Mora and D. Rule, personal communication). Because ethylene can accumulate within enclosed areas used to market cut flowers (Skog et al., 2001) and transport-related stress (e.g., water deficit) can stimulate elevated rates of ethylene synthesis by plant tissues (Muller et al., 2000), quantification of the ethylene sensitivity of different rose cultivars could assist future breeding programs and postharvest handling practices.
Treatment with silver thiosulfate (STS) liquid, an inhibitor of ethylene binding, has been widely used to protect sensitive cut flowers against ethylene (Nowak and Rudnicki, 1990). However, concerns associated with handling and disposing silver solutions are prompting legislators to prohibit STS use (Nell, 1992). 1-Methylcyclopropene (1-MCP) gas is an alternative and nontoxic ethylene-binding inhibitor registered for use on ornamentals (Reid and Staby, 2008; Serek et al., 1994). Commercial preparations such as EthylBloc™ (Floralife, Inc., Walterboro, SC) release 1-MCP from α-cyclodextrin polymers when dissolved in water (Daly and Kourelis, 2000). However, 1-MCP can be difficult to apply efficiently as a result of its gaseous nature. An alternative delivery system, whereby EthylBloc™ is enclosed in paper sachets resembling tea bags, may be a more convenient mode of 1-MCP application (Kostansek, 2002). Once dipped in water to initiate 1-MCP release, sachets could easily be used to treat cut flowers within closed shipping boxes (Reid and Celikel, 2008). This new 1-MCP delivery system has not been tested on cut roses.
In the present study, we quantified the postharvest performance and ethylene sensitivity of cut flowers from 38 cultivated rose genotypes. The efficacy of STS pulse and 1-MCP fumigation and sachet treatments to protect responsive genotypes against ethylene during simulated and commercial shipments was tested. We also determined the duration that these treatments could protect flowers at different storage and display temperatures.
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