New cut flower introductions are a necessity to maintain and increase consumer interest. Expanding the availability and knowledge of new cut flowers allows growers to pick species ideally suited for their climate and consumer preferences. Many exotic, bulbous genera and cultivars, such as pineapple lily, are underused by the floral industry. From South Africa, the genus Eucomis has ≈15 species (Bryan and Griffiths, 1995), each with pineapple-like inflorescences that have the potential to last for more than 1 month in a vase (Clark et al., 2010). Growers are hesitant to produce new crops without information on postharvest techniques that maximize postharvest quality.
A number of factors influence vase life after harvest, including ethylene, storage temperatures, sucrose pulses, and commercial preservatives. Ethylene exposure can have deleterious effects on cut flowers causing petal, floret, and leaf abscission, failure of buds to open, epinasty, and rapid senescence (Dole and Wilkins, 2005; Reid, 1989). The ethylene sensitivity of cut pineapple lily is unknown.
Cooling retards the utilization of carbohydrates during respiration, which extends postharvest life and delays development in most species (Sacalis and Seals, 1993). A desirable quality of a cut flower is the ability to be shipped long distances out of water (dry) without an adverse effect on vase life. Despite the benefits of cold and dry storage, some flower species do not respond well (Sacalis and Seals, 1993).
Pretreatments are used to extend vase life and are applied before holding in floral preservatives (Hunter, 2000). Sucrose pulses are a pretreatment used to increase vase life by loading stems with sugar to facilitate the storage of carbohydrates before they are dry packed and shipped long distances or held in storage for long periods of time (Hunter, 2000; Nowak and Rudnicki, 1990). Effective concentrations depend on the species and can have variable effects (Mohan Ram and Ramanuja Rao, 1977), but generally range anywhere from 1% to 20% (Dole and Wilkins, 2005). Sucrose treatments should also include a biocide to prevent bacterial growth (Hunter, 2000).
Commercial preservatives extend the vase life of many species but may have no effect on others (Sacalis and Seals, 1993). Typically, floral preservatives can be categorized as either hydrating, holding, or vase solutions. Holding solutions contain a carbohydrate source to encourage bud opening, flower longevity, or both and are applied for ≈1–2 d. Some holding solutions have been specifically formulated to be beneficial to bulb species. Hydrating solutions are meant to be applied before a holding solution right after harvest for about 4 h to facilitate water uptake and do not contain a carbohydrate source (Dole, 2011). Vase solutions are applied by the consumer and contain a higher concentration of carbohydrates than a holding solution (Dole, 2011). ‘Sparkling Burgundy’ pineapple lily (Fig. 1A) was found to have the greatest vase life (43 d) in tap water; the use of preservative solutions significantly shortened vase life (Clark et al., 2010). The ability for new cut flowers to perform well in floral foam is also important, especially to floral designers.
The objectives of this study were to determine postharvest handling recommendations for optimum vase life of cut pineapple lily using ‘Coral’ (Fig. 1B) and ‘Sparkling Burgundy’, by examining several postharvest procedures and solutions, including commercial preservatives, ethylene sensitivity, sucrose pulses, and cold storage.
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