Industry representative: Graeme Edwards, Woodlark Nurseries Ltd
AHDB Horticulture Cost: £9,970
Poinsettia remains a key seasonal crop for UK growers and demand continues to grow from year to year. Concerns towards the ‘health’ of poinsettias grown in mainland Europe is leading more and more retailers to source varieties from the UK. To a lesser extent, Brexit is also concerning retailers who are looking to secure more UK grown material. Key criteria for growers is to be able to commercially grow plants which meet their customer specifications, typically 4-5 heads/bracts and a height of 26-30cm above pot. Over 95% of the total volume sold are red poinsettias, more so within supermarkets, compared to garden centres which tend to have a greater range of colours. Poinsettia breeders each year bring to the market new varieties – aiming for brighter coloured, longer lasting plants which can be grown with minimal/without chemical growth regulants and which can be grown at higher densities and are easy to sleeve – without stem breakage.
The aim of having these variety trails are to compare under a standard growing regime a range of varieties from each breeder which can be tracked and monitored through their growing phase, and test their shelf-life. There are breeder trials within Europe but not every UK grower is able to attend, and European growing conditions can be markedly different from that in the UK. Neamelea Nurseries, being one of the most modern glasshouse facilities in the UK, has been selected as the growing/trial site. It is no longer deemed to be of significant value to have three growing sites positioned at different geographical locations i.e north and south. Trial results over the last couple of years has seen significant differences between grower sites in terms of their own culture, but the variety to variety comparisons have been the same. Hence, to have a single growing site in 2019.
Objective 1: To evaluate plant quality, height and number of bracts of up to 20 Poinsettia varieties (red and coloured) produced under standard commercial practices.
Objective 2: To evaluate the performance of selected Poinsettia varieties (up to 12) submitted to shelf life testing.
It is proposed to grow a range of new varieties (up to 20) on a commercial nursery following standard commercial practices.
These varieties will be evaluated throughout their production/growing phase for height, number of bracts and final quality score/grade out %. In addition, selected varieties will be run through shelf-life to examine how well they perform and stand up – with final examination in the third week of January.
It is intended to host two grower Open Days – one in November for growers to view and score the 290 varieties that have been grown. A second Open Day will be held in the 2nd/3rd week of January for growers to view plants at the end of shelf-life. It is envisaged that where possible this will be co-ordinated with other planned Poinsettia events (e.g. AHDB water deficit, BPPC Poinsettia PGR).
Representative plants of each variety will be arranged and clearly labelled for growers to view. Growers will also have the opportunity to score the plants for preference (on a scale of 1-10) and comment on their suitability for the UK market.
A short summary of the trial will be presented, including production information (production timings, inputs and environment).
These trials allow the opportunity for UK to meet and discuss the new introductions which otherwise they may not be aware of or not be able to grow on their own nursery. Customers (retailers) are also interested in such events to see varieties which are better suited to UK conditions, and particularly their performance in shelf-life.