Ornamental growing opportunities examined in study tour to Israel

A study tour to Israel arranged by the National Cut Flower Centre in association with Danziger and Agridera has looked at commercial growing potential of introductions from plant breeders.

Scabiosa ‘Scoop series’ - image: Danziger
Scabiosa ‘Scoop series’ - image: Danziger
Plants assessed for their growth potential included Scabiosa 'Scoop series', Craspedia globosa as well as new varieties of veronica and caryopteris.
The four-day study tour to Israel, included growers, packers and consultants, and visits were arranged to Israeli propagators, commercial growers and packers.
AHDB research and knowledge exchange manager Wayne Brough said: "All cut flower production in Israel either occurs outdoors or under a range of polythene structures, very little production occurs under glass due to the summer temperatures which can exceed 50°C under protection.
"The cut flower season in Israel complements that of the UK, as much of the production occurs during the winter and early spring before temperatures become too great. Israel appears to have only a small home market for cut flowers, with most of the produce seen during the study tour being exported (via air or sea freight), generally via the Dutch auction around the world to places including America, Asia and Europe.
"With the demise of the largest exporting body in Israel, Carmel-Agrexco, a number of smaller exporting/packing/logistic companies (like Aviv, which was visited during the study tour) have cropped up to help support growers with the logistics of exporting and assistance finding new markets."
He added: "Most of the nurseries visited were small to medium sized, family run businesses and not particularly technologically advanced. A number were also packers as well as growers and employed different kinds of grading and packing lines of various levels of sophistication; however on the nurseries/farms there was limited visible automation employed during the production process and most tasks were carried out by hand, via a mainly Thai seasonal workforce.
"At most of the sites visited (with the exception of the outdoor sunflower grower – Shalom Lampart) the soil used to cultivate the cut flowers was basically a silty-sand, with the emphasis on sand. All the crops were sub-irrigated and regularly liquid-fed. Soil amelioration was practiced, but there was little evidence of this when the soil was closely examined. Most of the irrigation water used was desalinated, with no apparent collection and storage of rain water undertaken.
"In terms of the cut flower crops examined during the study tour, a number were regularly noted on the seven or eight different flower farms visited as part of the study tour."
Scabiosa ‘Scoop series’ is a collection of brightly, coloured ‘cushion-shaped’ flowers available in a dozen different colours. The flowers are produced individually on long stems above the foliage of the plant and are harvested without foliage or side shoots for use in specific bunches or in mixed bouquets. The plant is cutting-raised and generates around 20-30 flower stems per season, with a possibility that the plants can be overwintered and cropped into the second year.
Craspedia globosa is an unusual cut flower, a native of Australia, the plant generates a tight balled-shaped yellow flower on the end of a stalk. The result is an eye catching flower suitable for use in mixed bouquets. The species can be grown from young plants from Danziger or directly sown into the soil using seed from Genesis Seeds.
Veronica, available in three colours (blue, pink and white) was viewed at Zigdon Farm, Porat during the visit. It is not a new species, but the ‘Skyler series’ from Danziger flowers without the need for cold treatment.
Caryopteris was also noted in production at Patkin Farm, Yesha and is available in shades of blue and pink. The species is a woody shrub and is vigorously pruned back at the end of each season to generate new flowering stems. Black-outs were used over the maturing crop to produce more uniform flowering.
Ornithogalum is a bulb originating from South Africa, seen previously in the UK as a pot plant. This crop is a specialism of Frank Farms, Givat Hen, and is available in orange (as O.dubium) and yellow or white flower colours (as O. thyrsoides). There was interest in this crop as a soil or tray grown crop under protection in the UK.
On the final day of the study tour field-grown sunflowers were the theme of discussion at Shalom Lampart, one of the largest sunflower growers in Israel. Previously the majority of production was of the classic yellow petal/dark centred varieties, but now there is a move towards yellow centred and bi-coloured petal varieties as the market develops. Unlike crops in the UK, seed was direct drilled in four rows, sub-irrigated and supported by netting.
Other crops viewed during the study tour included large areas of gypsophila, mainly the various white flowered varieties. Smaller areas of hellebore (grown through a black plastic mulch), larkspur and solidago were also noted on one or two sites. Although not seen in field production, ranunculus was a common cut flower product noted on the various packing lines visited. Foliage/non-flowering product lines included ruscus and barley, with the foliage removed from the stems to leave a bunch consisting of the stems and green seed heads.
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