The UK poinsettia industry has had a high reliance on relatively few poinsettia varieties. The variety with the largest penetration is Infinity (c. 80% of the UK volume), followed by others such as Titan, Christmas Feeling, Prima, and Christmas Glory. The UK market tends to require slightly taller plants than the typical EU product, with clean red bract colours contrasting against dark green leaves. Prominent cyathia are frequently required, but without pollen.
There is now considerable interest in the use and exploitation of new varieties for the UK market. There are concerns that key varieties, which have been in the market for a number of years, are now starting to show non-typical or variable traits and habits. This may be due to issues with stock plant maintenance over a number of years.
A recent AHDB Horticulture Poinsettia growers study tour showed that plant breeders are actively working to breed new varieties or to develop improved stock management processes to “reboot and revamp” existing varieties. However, the number of new varieties entering the market is significant. These varieties are bred internationally, in particular in Europe, but not in the UK. The stock can be maintained in diverse areas such as Europe, Africa and Central America.
The process of variety selection by a grower is not simple. Growers will acquire insight from a number of sources, including own tests, visits to other growers, breeders and research stations, discussions with buyers, personal views regarding customer needs, extension services and documentary sources. Growers will also need to consider how a variety “fits” with their own facilities and production techniques. The process of variety selection is very expensive and time consuming, poor decision making can also have significant negative commercial consequences.
Improved and more effective decision making on variety selection can be established by understanding if there are significant grower x genetic interactions, ie do all varieties perform relatively the same on different holdings. If they do perform relatively the same on different holdings then it will suggest that varieties are relatively robust between growers. If there are significant interactions, ie varieties do not perform relatively the same between holdings, then variety decision making will be complex. If no interactions exist then variety selection might be made following the testing, on nursery, of relatively few varieties benchmarked to standard commercial controls. If interactions do exist then to make an effective decision it will require own on nursery tests of a very wide range of varieties, since it will never be clear how they perform until they are grown on a specific site.
Variety selection should also include an assessment of consumer performance. Shelf life trials are though difficult and costly to undertake at a grower level. Furthermore, a number of approaches to increase the resilience of the product post production are coming onto the market, these include the use of anti transpirant chemicals, small water absorbing plugs and the addition of “wick” water uptake mechanisms. These products have not been tested under controlled conditions to determine their efficacy.
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