Cut flowers are highly perishable and complex plant organs that need to be properly handled and stored to preserve their value and quality (Reid, 2002). In some species, quality may be lost due to foliage or petal abscission, leaf chlorosis, geotropic stem bending, excessive respiration/transpiration, or storage/handling at high temperatures (Joyce, 1988; Maxie et al., 1973; Reid, 2002). To slow down senescence, storage facilities must be available and storage methods well planned before harvest to preserve product quality during handling and transit and reduce transportation cost (Jones and Moody, 1993; Macnish et al., 2009a). Appropriate cut flower storage facilities also allow product to be accumulated for holidays and special events, when demand exceeds supply, to increase profitability.
Cut stems placed in water will develop a negative water balance when water uptake is less than water loss. This situation is often the result of xylem plugging at the stem base (van Meeteren et al., 2006); however, time to develop a negative water balance varies among species. In chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum morifolium), negative water balance can develop a few hours after putting stems in water. A negative balance can also develop rapidly in stems that are stored dry before placement in water because of air uptake by the cut stem end (van Doorn, 1990; van Meeteren, 1992). Although aspired air did not cause embolisms in dry-stored stems of some rose cultivars, cavitations in the xylem resulted in most of the rapid blockage observed in dry-stored stems (Loubaud and van Doorn, 2004; van Doorn, 1997). Water stress resulting from restricted water uptake in turn reduces the turgor-derived strength in cut stems (Burdett, 1970) leaving only structural strength to keep stems upright. Turgor loss can also be caused by physiological plugging (Durkin and Kuc, 1966), microbial stem occlusion (Aarts, 1957), or a general physiological decline (Rasmussen and Carpenter, 1974).
Both dry and wet storage have advantages and disadvantages for cut stem storage and longevity. Generally, for long term, stems should be stored dry, while for shorter periods (1–4 weeks), storage in water or a preservative solution is preferred (Reid, 2002; Sacalis, 1993). Dry storage saves space in coolers by allowing more stems to be stored in a small space; however, dry storage can be more labor intensive and costly because of packing and the need to recut stems after storage. Moreover, some species do not adapt well to dry storage; for example, dahlia (Dahlia hybrids), freesia (Freesia hybrida), gerbera (Gerbera jamesonii), and gypsophila (Gypsophila elegans) (Nowak and Rudnicki, 1990). Species prone to botrytis (Botrytis cinerea) should be properly treated with fungicide and tissue surfaces dried before storage. Sometimes, pulsing with sugars, antimicrobials, antiethylene substances, or both can maintain flower quality throughout the storage period (Arboleda, 1993; Halevy and Mayak, 1981).
Wet storage of cut flowers is also widely practiced as flowers do not need to be packed and stems maintain good turgor. On the other hand, more space is used by the storage buckets, stems can deplete food reserves rapidly, and buds can open more quickly. Finally, wet storage provides more opportunities for pathogenic contamination, resulting in plugged stem ends, blocked water uptake, accelerated wilting, and ultimately death of the stems (Macnish et al., 2009b; Nell and Reid, 2000). Many researchers feel that the negative effects of water storage are so great that stems should remain dry entirely from harvest until receipt by the retailer and that any hydration of the stems in the marketing chain accelerates bacterial contamination and stem plugging (de Witte and van Doorn, 1988; van Doorn and D’hont, 1994; Zagory and Reid, 1986). Few studies have been conducted to determine if this practice is commercially practical and improves postharvest performance. This study was conducted to compare the effectiveness of wet vs. dry storage in maintaining quality and vase life extension of two of the most important U.S. field-grown specialty cut species (lisianthus and zinnia) and two of the most important Pakistan cut flower species (rose and marigold).
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