Gerbera (Asteraceae Dumont) is one of the most important floricultural crops in the United States and worldwide (Behnke, 1984; Rogers and Tjia, 1990). It has been commercially produced in Europe since the turn of the 20th century and in North America since the early 1920s (Rogers and Tjia, 1990). Continuous introduction of new cultivars with improved or novel horticultural characteristics has been one of the major driving forces for the popularity of this flower (Behnke, 1984; Rogers and Tjia, 1990).
Gerbera breeding was pioneered in England in the 1890s (Hansen, 1999) and has been conducted in The Netherlands, the United States, Demark, Germany, Israel, and other countries. For the past several decades, commercial breeding programs have focused efforts primarily on developing cultivars for cut flower production or for flowering pot plant production (Behnke, 1984; Rogers and Tjia, 1990). Cut flower cultivars are required to produce flowers with long peduncles (greater than 50 cm), and the majority of the pot gerbera cultivars have been developed for production in 15-cm-diameter or smaller containers; thus, they produce compact foliage and flowers with short peduncles (less than 25 cm) (Dole and Wilkins, 1999). Recently, interest in producing gerberas in large (trade gallon or larger) containers for indoor or outdoor use is increasing [O. Nissen (Sunshine Carnations State, Inc.) and J. Mazat (Ball Horticultural Company), personal communication]. Grower trials have indicated a severe lack of suitable cultivars for such use (Channel, 2005). To produce gerberas for such a market, growers have had either to use cut flower cultivars and growth retardants to shorten the flower peduncles or to use pot-type cultivars bred for small containers. Gerbera plants so produced are generally of low quality and do not perform well in large containers: plants being too small, compact, and not able to cover the containers or flowers being too tall and leggy. Growers are in need of new gerbera cultivars suitable for such a niche market.
UFGE 4141, UFGE 7014, UFGE 7015, UFGE 7023, UFGE 7032, and UFGE 7034 have been selected and tested specifically to meet the needs of the large-container flowering gerbera market. They have produced high-quality plants in trade gallon containers and produced many bright-colored flowers. Replicated greenhouse trials have also shown that these gerberas flowered earlier and produced more flowers than control cultivars. Additionally, these gerberas, especially UFGE 7015, are more resistant to powdery mildew, the most common and damaging fungal disease in gerbera production and use (Chase, 2001; Moyer and Peres, 2008). These improvements should be beneficial to growers and consumers who produce or use gerberas in large containers.
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