Harvesting commercial cut flowers
Authors: K.Prasad*1, Pallavi Neha2 and Abhay Kumar Gaurav3
1Division of Postharvest technology
Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Pusa campus, New Delhi-110012
*Email of corresponding author: kprasadiari@gmail.com

2Division of Postharvest technology
Indian Institute of Horticultural Research,Bangalore, Karnataka-560 089.

3Division of Floriculture and Landscaping
Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Pusa campus, New Delhi-110012



Harvesting at right stage of growth of flower crop is an art as well as science. The correct harvest maturity judgment is essential irrespective of the aim of using the harvested flower, flowers whether being used for decoration, adornment, drying or aesthetic purposes should be harvested at right maturity to avoid its quality deterioration. India exports 22485 metric tons worth rupees 45591 lakhs (A.P.E.D.A. Jan 2015). Although there is an increase in floriculture production over last years but postharvest loss of flowers always remained a prime concern of the researchers and entrepreneurs. Harvesting is not just an agricultural operation but far more than that. Good quality flowers are obtained only when harvesting is done at proper stage of maturity.

Flower cultivation in India contributes to a significant share in its horticultural production. 1754000 metric tons of loose flowers and 543 lakh numbers of cut flowers are produced annually in India (N.H.B. 2014-15). Being a very delicate horticultural commodity flower crops require lot of care during harvesting and handling. As the grade and quality of flowers is highly affected by its appearance thus it is must to manage properly the factors which reduces their postharvest life. There are several factors which affects their quality but this sequence of deterioration starts from the point of harvesting. Improper harvesting stage should be avoided and this can be only done when farmers knows about the right stage of harvesting.

Principles behind harvesting at proper harvest maturity:
Product should retain peak acceptable quality when it reaches the consumer.
Product should be in a good sensory characteristics, acceptable flavor or appearance.
Appropriate grade of the commodity suitable to the consumer
Give maximum shelf life to the consumer.


Maturity indices of commercial cut flower:

Rose:

harvested differently at various levels of maturity as it is not only variety but the type of market demand also determine the same, like for distant market roses should be harvested at sepals reflexed stage as early to that will make the flower succeptible to bent neck disorder can cause loss of economic value.
Some yellows as well as white roses can also be harvested at stage when sepals begins to get apart from the bud.
Bud size vary according to the market demand and knowhow, like in case of international market bud size of 6.5 cm retained along with one or two petal as per their requirement.
Shears are used for harvesting considered as the best equipment. Stem length of the cut rose varies generally 50 to 80 cm which should be in accordance to the demanding authority and not be our own.

Gladiolus:

Harvested when 2 - 3 base florets start showing their tremendous colour
Colour visibility of the 1-3 florets will help consumer to determine the quality of flower thereby increasing the sale of produce giving better returns to farmers.
While harvesting one should be again careful about the distance of the destiny, as for distant market earlier stage of harvesting is preferred and sugar pulsing may be given further to reduce any quality and wilting loss.
First floret open stage is best suitable for the local and nearby market.
Here using knife with pulling upwards the stem considered as a better way of harvest, stem length is again important here for e.g. International market prefers the stem length of 60 to 100 cm as their recommendation strategy.


Carnation:
Star-stage buds considered as the initial and immature stage which can be used for all purposes marketing but should not be stored for long time.
'paint-brush' is suitable harvesting stage and results in quick opening of flower.
Half bloomed stage accompanied with size of 5.5 cm diameter also stage of open bloomed with 6 cm diameter is generally asked by the international authorities for sale at their venues.
Here the harvesting equipment is secateurs and stem length can be retained about 50 to 80 cm.


Gerbera:
Harvested at 2 outer rows disk floret begin to open stage except some which close florets at late evening and night.
Method of harvesting is twisting and pulling the stems from the junction of the rhizome.
Stem length should be retained not less than 60 cm if international market is the objective of the grower.
Harvested flowers should be kept from the base of stem in 40 ppm solution of hypochlorite.
It is recommended that at least 1-2 row of disk flowers which are tubular flowers located in the center of flower head should show pollen.

Chrysanthemum:
Cultivars are classified in various groups in this the Standard group of chrysanthemums are harvested at fully open stage whereas another group namely pompons best suited to be harvested with criteria of most mature flowers at fully open stage.
Early harvesting is not preferred as it will lead to inability of opening of flowers and cause economical loss, rather than this harvesting at tight buds followed by opening it with bud-opening solutions will be considered as better option.
Inflorescence size of about 5 cm and a stem length of 60 to 70 cm length considered to be better option of harvesting.
Spray varieties preferred to be harvested when most of the petals on the most mature flower found to be upright normally. Here we can use the advantage that the flowers can be opened during transportation and storage.
Cutting stem with knife and shears found to be better. Leaves should be removed totally from the lower third portion of stems.

Anthurium:
Generally opened spathe are harvested, spathe size varies from variety to variety.
Angle between the spathe and spadix should be 45 C.
The color of the spathe should be fully developed and heart shape occurrence at the petiolar end i.e. at the bottom side of spathe towards the point of attachment of flower considered to be one of the best indicator of maturity.

Bird of paradise:
Harvested generally at bud stage or slightly open stage of flower.
Flower portion starts bending downward with maturity, which makes 90 angle with respect to stem. When orange flower start emerging and can be seen barely stems are to be pulled gently at this stage.
Harvesting can be done at tight bud stage prior to flowers emergence, as this stage of harvest is an acceptable event for flower longitivity in transport and handling.
Method of harvesting in this flower is pulling is preferred instead of cutting, the stem retrained with flower generally varies from 30 to 130 cm in length.

Tuberose:
Harvested at the stage when 2- 4 blooms tends to be open on spike. Earlier stage harvesting is recommended when spike resistance to transportation is needed pretreatment technique can be opted to decrease the chances of bud opening during transport.
For local market flowers should be more open on the spike. Straight stems with quality florets are always preferred in this case.

Gypsophila common name baby's breath
Stems to be cut with the length of 20 to 40 cm. flowers here should be harvested keeping the point in mind that this flower is used for both dry and fresh flower purpose.
50% of overall flowers should be opened to ensure harvesting, 24 hours from harvest are very much crucial for this flower, farmer should be careful about that.
For dry flower stems to be cut when 20 to 30% of the flowers are open and thus they even can be retained for long transport event.
Lot of unopened bud in an arrangement, no water stress to the flowers and no browning of flowers are preferred by the market authorities.

Bovardia flower
Harvested at 2-3 outer side flowers open stage. When one or two flowers tends to be open on each stem is good signs.
Wilting and browning of flowers should be avoided.
Pretreatment can be done for ethylene resistance.

Calla Lilly
Spathe opening with visible spadix considered as one of the best maturity index.
Method of harvesting is pulling rhizome from the base and recutting it, generally followed.
Spadix visibility is considered by the consumer while purchasing this flower, so farmer should take care of it.

Daffodil
"goose-neck" stage (gooseneck bending downwards for 45 degree angle) considered best, Jonquils harvested at peculiar "one bell" i.e. only single flower open on spike, is considered as harvesting stage,.
Method of harvesting is cutting flower.
Flowers should be purchased in the pencil to gooseneck stages.

Delphiniums and larkspur
Harvested when one to two flowers in opening stage are located on the spike.
Mildews are the main problem affecting trade of this flower so farmers should take care of it.
No signs of browning and wilting are appreciated.

Helliconia
Fully mature stage flowers are harvested.

Yellow aster
2 to 4 open flower blooms located on spike are preferred.
Pretreated early harvested flowers shows more resistance to long term transportation.
Straight stems, clean bloom, pretreated flowers fetches more price to the farmer.


Sweet William
Harvested when the outer peripheral ring of flowers are open and totally visible.
Avoid ethylene injury to plants and keep the flowers away from superficial blemishes.

[bConclusion:
Harvesting of cut flower at its optimum maturity not only enhances marketability of produce it also reduces unless extra care of produce for their postharvest handling, damages by pest and disease and physiological disorder, which ultimate fetches high price in the market.

References

Anonymous (2014). NHB database. National Horticulture Board, Gurgaon, Haryana, India.

Anonymous (2015).APEDA database. Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority, New Delhi, India.

Kader Adel A. 2002. Post harvest Technology of Horticultural Crops. 3rd Edition, University of California, Agricultural and Natural Resources.

Post Harvest Technology of Horticultural Crops: Vol.07. Horticulture Science.

Saraswati S, Preethi TL, Balasubramanyan S, Suresh J, Revathy N, Natrajan S. 2012.
Postharvest Management of Horticultural crops, Agrobios India, Jodhpur.

Verma R. L, Joshi K. V. 2000. Post-Harvest Technology of Fruits and Vegetables. Vol. I & II Indus Publishing Co. New Delhi, ISBN 81-7387-108-6

Wills, McGlasson, Graham Joyce 2007. Post Harvest- An Introduction to the Physiology and Handling of Fruits, Vegetables and ornamentals Cab International, ISBN97818459322755


About Author / Additional Info:
Ph.D. Research Scholar at Division of Food Science and Postharvest Technology ICAR-IARI New Delhi.