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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: IMPROVING POSTHARVEST LIFE OF POTTED PLANTS AND CUT FLOWERS THROUGH USE OF MOLECULAR AND APPLIED TECHNOLOGIES

Location: Crops Pathology and Genetics Research

Title: Postharvest: Cut flowers and potted plants

Authors
item Reid, Michael -
item Jiang, Cai-Zhong

Submitted to: Review Article
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: June 21, 2012
Publication Date: September 24, 2012
Repository URL: http://www.crcpress.com/product/isbn/9781439849248
Citation: Reid, M.S., Jiang, C. 2012. Postharvest: Cut flowers and potted plants. Review Article. In "Ornamental Geophytes: From Basic Science to Sustainable Production" by CRC Press, Eds. Rina Kamenetsky, Hiroshi Okubo.

Interpretive Summary: In the past fifty years, the cut flower market has changed dramatically, from a local market with growers located on city outskirts, to a global one; flowers and cut foliage sourced from throughout the world are sold as bunches or combined into arrangements and bouquets in the major target markets. The high value of cut flowers has driven major increases in production in many developing countries. Production of cut flowers and foliage can be highly profitable in countries with an ideal growing environment and low labor costs. The costs of establishing production in the field or even in plastic houses are relatively modest, and harvest may start within a few months of planting. Ornamental geophytes have played an important role in this change in production and marketing - herbaceous perennials with a specialized underground storage organ are especially suited to production in low-input systems in developing countries. The re-shaping of the ornamentals market has occurred with little consideration for its postharvest consequences. Flowers that used to be obtained from local growers and were retailed within days of harvest may now take as long as three weeks to arrive at the retail florist or supermarket. Increased emphasis on holidays as occasions for sale of cut flowers has exacerbated this trend, since the volume of flowers required to meet the demand for the major holidays has led to widespread storage. Because of their perishability, cut flowers produced in distant growing areas traditionally have been shipped by air. The increasing cost of jet fuel, and the volumes of flowers being produced in countries such as Colombia and Kenya has led to many efforts to ship ornamentals in marine containers, further extending the time from harvest to market. These market and transportation changes have not been accompanied by changes in postharvest technologies to offset the time/temperature effect on the life of ornamentals. The net result, especially in North America, has been a reduction in display life of cut flowers and potted plants, disenchantment with the cut flower purchase experience, documented in many surveys, and a per capita consumption of cut flowers in the U.S. that is less than that in almost all other developed countries. To overcome this negative impression of ornamentals, the industry needs to employ strategies to improve the display life of cut flowers and potted plants. Our goal in this review is to describe studies that have changed our understanding of the postharvest biology of ornamental geophytes, and to indicate current optimal technologies based on that new understanding. In particular, we have focused on recent findings in relevant areas of basic plant biology, and conclude with a discussion of the way in which molecular strategies are being, or could be deployed in the future, to extend postharvest life and reduce postharvest losses of perishable ornamental geophytes.

Technical Abstract: In the past fifty years, the cut flower market has changed dramatically, from a local market with growers located on city outskirts, to a global one; flowers and cut foliage sourced from throughout the world are sold as bunches or combined into arrangements and bouquets in the major target markets. The high value of cut flowers has driven major increases in production in many developing countries. Production of cut flowers and foliage can be highly profitable in countries with an ideal growing environment and low labor costs. The costs of establishing production in the field or even in plastic houses are relatively modest, and harvest may start within a few months of planting. Ornamental geophytes have played an important role in this change in production and marketing - herbaceous perennials with a specialized underground storage organ are especially suited to production in low-input systems in developing countries. The re-shaping of the ornamentals market has occurred with little consideration for its postharvest consequences. Flowers that used to be obtained from local growers and were retailed within days of harvest may now take as long as three weeks to arrive at the retail florist or supermarket. Increased emphasis on holidays as occasions for sale of cut flowers has exacerbated this trend, since the volume of flowers required to meet the demand for the major holidays has led to widespread storage. Because of their perishability, cut flowers produced in distant growing areas traditionally have been shipped by air. The increasing cost of jet fuel, and the volumes of flowers being produced in countries such as Colombia and Kenya has led to many efforts to ship ornamentals in marine containers, further extending the time from harvest to market. These market and transportation changes have not been accompanied by changes in postharvest technologies to offset the time/temperature effect on the life of ornamentals. The net result, especially in North America, has been a reduction in display life of cut flowers and potted plants, disenchantment with the cut flower purchase experience, documented in many surveys, and a per capita consumption of cut flowers in the U.S. that is less than that in almost all other developed countries. To overcome this negative impression of ornamentals, the industry needs to employ strategies to improve the display life of cut flowers and potted plants. Our goal in this review is to describe studies that have changed our understanding of the postharvest biology of ornamental geophytes, and to indicate current optimal technologies based on that new understanding. In particular, we have focused on recent findings in relevant areas of basic plant biology, and conclude with a discussion of the way in which molecular strategies are being, or could be deployed in the future, to extend postharvest life and reduce postharvest losses of perishable ornamental geophytes.

Last Modified: 4/18/2014