Specialty cut flowers comprise a large number of species, including trees, shrubs, and herbaceous annuals and perennials. Two key aspects of the specialty cut flower industry are introducing new species and marketing flowers with a long postharvest life. Interesting new cut flower species excite buyers and increase sales, and a long postharvest life ensures that the customers—wholesalers, retailers, and the final consumer—will be satisfied and return to purchase more flowers.
Of the many cut flowers introduced to commercial markets each year, several show potential. ‘Lace Violet’ linaria, ‘Sunrise’ lupine, ‘Temptress’ poppy, and ‘Indian Summer’ rudbeckia are new species for the cut flower industry. ‘Karma Thalia’ dahlia, ‘Jemmy Royal Purple’ trachelium, and ‘Sun Gold’ and ‘Benary's Giant Scarlet’ zinnias are established species in the cut flower industry, but the cultivars are new. The lack of information about postharvest handling of the above-listed species and cultivars makes it necessary to develop efficient and practical techniques for flower producers, wholesalers, and retailers to enhance quality and longevity.
The available literature describing how vase water quality affects cut flower quality is variable, and recommendations differ regarding the use of tap or deionized (DI) water (Nowak and Rudnicki, 1990; Sacalis, 1993). In some studies, tap water produced the shortest vase life (Kamataka, 2003), but in others, it resulted in a longer vase life than DI water (van Meeteren et al., 2000).
Adding sucrose, typically through the use of commercial premixed products, to the vase solution enhanced postharvest performance and flower quality of many species (Cho et al., 2001; Jones et al., 1993; Sacalis, 1993). Incorporating biocides in the vase solutions decreases microbial growth and therefore maintains healthier vascular tissue. Results may be cultivar specific as vase life of ‘Florex Gold’ calla lily (Zantedeschia elliottiana) was extended after a 2-h pulse in 8-hydroxyquinoline citrate (8-HQC), while the same treatment reduced longevity and quality in ‘Black Magic’ calla lily (Janowska and Jerzy, 2004). A 24-h pulse in 8-HQC increased the longevity of sunflower (Helianthus annuus) and weigela (Weigela spp.) but reduced the vase life of yarrow (Achillea) (Redman et al., 2002).
The ability for new cuts to perform well in floral foam is important, especially to florists. Generally, when flowers are placed in floral foam, the vase life is decreased (Sacalis, 1993), but cut big bend bluebonnet (Lupinus havardii) stems performed as well in floral foam as in water (Davis et al., 1995).
Cold storage is used to delay cut flower development and provide a long vase life (Cevallos and Reid, 2001; Faragher et al., 1984; Redman et al., 2002). In addition, antiethylene-binding products have been successfully used on ethylene-sensitive species (Geertsen, 1990; Ichimura et al., 1998; Newman et al., 1998; Reid, 2004), but they have no effect on extending vase life of nonsensitive species (Elgar et al., 1999; Kenza et al., 2000).
The objective of this study was to evaluate water type, concentrated sucrose vase solutions, floral foam, commercial hydrators and holding solutions, cold storage, and ethylene sensitivity as components of the postharvest handling of seven specialty cut flowers.
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