Science Into Practice - Monitoring poinsettias

UK poinsettia growers have traditionally relied on relatively few varieties. Infinity accounts for about 80 per cent of the national crop, the remainder made up by varieties such as Christmas Feeling, Christmas Glory, Prima and Titan.

While many new varieties are coming through from breeders, it is difficult for UK growers to compare them all. It is important for growers to know which poinsettias vary least in performance between nurseries so they can choose to trial a small selection that has been benchmarked against current standard varieties.

In an AHDB-funded trial, 11 poinsettia varieties were grown on three commercial nurseries using different production systems and crop management. The height of Infinity 2 plants was measured at weekly intervals, and growing media and tissue samples analysed at harvest to see how nutrient regimes and uptake varied between nurseries.

All varieties were scored for quality at harvest, with shelf-life performance beyond Christmas also assessed. In early January, plants were again scored for quality. The trial measured the height at which plants were defoliated as well as counting the remaining bracts and decayed shoots and bracts. The impact of shelf life in using wicks and water-holding pads to help consumers keep plants watered correctly was also explored.

Infinity 2, along with Astro Red, Christmas Eve, Happy Day, Hera Red, Matinee and No 57 scored well in nursery assessments. Astro Red, Hera Red, Infinity 2 and No 57 all ranked highly following shelf-life testing. The main reason for any differences in performance between plants of the same variety was the nursery location, which affected the date at which plants went into shelf-life trials. However, nutrition played a role too. The wicks and water-holding pads led to significantly longer shelf life.

For details on all AHDB Horticulture activity, see horticulture.ahdb.org.uk.


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