Do you know the signs of good flower health? Sourcing flowers is very important. It is the first step in ensuring the best quality flowers for your customers. The adage widely used in the computer industry of “garbage in garbage out” is a good example of this concept. For example, you may be the most conscientious consumer from a postharvest point of view, but if you start with bad product – "garbage in" – then it won’t matter what you do. Chances are the flowers will still be of low quality when your customer receives them – "garbage out". Remember, we are not buying and selling widgets, but flowers, a biologically PERISHABLE product. The cheapest is not necessarily the best. For this reason, it is important that you know what signs to look for in your flowers.
1. Do your homework. Check to make sure your retailer, supplier or grower is committed to quality. Do they use proper care and handling techniques? Do they use good refrigeration, clean buckets, etc.? Also, know your flower varieties and their characteristics. Rose varieties vary greatly in vase life and quality problems like bent-neck susceptibility, ethylene susceptibility, botrytis infection. Carnation varieties vary greatly in ethylene sensitivity. Picking a less affected carnation variety can cut back on shrinkage. Learn more about care and handling for your varieties in our "by flower type" section.
2. Periodically test the flowers in your shop. Know what you are sending to your customers.
• Non-ethylene sensitive flowers can be tested in fresh flower food using the Floralife's In-house Experiment protocol.
Flower testing should be ongoing, designed around a complete quality control program. Not only will you be controlling your quality, but learning the best varieties at the same time. (Beware: Don’t jump to any major conclusions based on one in-house test.)
3. Work with known sources, if possible. That eliminates inconsistencies in your quality and makes it easier to track down any possible problems. A solid relationship with your supplier is crucial to your quality efforts.
Bacteria and fungus are the leading issues that affect the flower consumer's perceived value of their purchase. Floralife can help you reduce the effects of bacteria and fungus by helping you control your processes to eliminate cross-contamination. Floralife can help you identify and suggest solutions.
Do your vases, buckets or processing areas smell rotten? Does the water in your vases or flower buckets have the appearance of being cloudy or dirty? Then you might have a bacteria problem. Bacteria are microscopic organisms that under ideal conditions grow and multiply rapidly. Bacteria can clog stems and produce ethylene that affect longevity of fresh cut flowers. When bacteria is present the walls inside the flower stem will get blocked causing flowers and foliage to wilt and bent-neck to occur. Bacteria also produce ethylene, which can reduce the flower's longevity.
Are your flower leaves yellow? Do your flower heads just fall off? Then your flowers may be affected by botrytis cinerea. It is a fungus known as botrytis bunch rot, blight, grey mould and gray mold. Botrytis spores are always present and as a flower grower it can be difficult to control because the signs are not visible at the time of harvest. Botrytis cinerea continues to grow and develop on fresh cut flowers especially under unsatisfactory transport and storage conditions. Botrytis creates toxins and pathogens that cause decay, which stimulate a flower's ethylene production. Signs of botrytis cinerea include flower buds that fail to open, spotting or discoloration on leaves, wilting leaves, leaf drop, and a fuzzy grayish brown growth on flowers and foliage.
Factors affecting the spread of botrytis cinerea include over fertilization during the growing phase, lack of differentiation in growing flower varieties, poor ventilation practices, flower spacing in the field and coolers, high humidity and moisture levels, and windy conditions that may spread spores. One the greatest factors in the spread of botrytis is poor sanitation protocols.
The best solution is to ensure everything is clean. Be sure to follow Floralife's suggested proper care and handling protocols including sanitation, temperature management, humidity affecting moisture on flower heads including removing grower sleeves from bunches. The damage that can occur to other plants and flowers from botrytis infected plants and bacteria due to increased levels of ethylene can be minimized with an ethylene inhibitor, such as, EthylBloc™.
Ethylene gas (C2H4) is an odorless, colorless gas. Also known as the "death" or "ripening hormone," this gaseous plant hormone profoundly influences the growth and development of plants. The negative effects of ethylene are estimated to cause 30 percent of all floriculture crop losses. If your flowers or plants are exhibiting dull colors, leaf yellowing, flower (or petal) drop, irregular opening, and premature death, then your product may have been exposed to excess amounts of ethylene. Any individual flower produces ethylene, but is also susceptible to ethylene produced by many other sources (including produce, propane heaters, gas-powered forklifts, cigarette smoke and other flowers).
Ethylene levels above 100 ppb can do damage to flowers over time periods greater than 24 hours. Levels of about 250 ppb can do damage to flowers in as little as 12 hours.
It is important to understand the small amount that 100 ppb represents. If you add 100 drops of food coloring to 26,400 gallons of water, the concentration of the food coloring is 100 ppb
Some varieties of flowers are more sensitive than others. Learn more about these plants and flowers with these links.
It is important to ensure the best care and handling protocols to prevent problems before they occur, such as removing all flower waste and keeping final product away from high sources of ethylene. When high levels of ethylene are already present, it may be helpful to use an ethylene inhibitor, like EthylBloc™, to minimize the damage that can occur to plants and flowers.
It can be hard to determine if your flowers' health has be affected by a disease or if the problem really occurs from a pest. Pests are just insects that are deemed harmful to the growth of a flower. Many growers are now using helping insects, such as wasps and ladybugs, to combat pest insects. Learn more about these flower growers in the Floralife Spotlight sections.