The success of new crops programs in Denmark and the Netherlands can be attributed to development of market orientated production systems for export. European producers have developed technology for a year-round production of a single or several crops in highly mechanized greenhouses or outdoors where environments are suitable for certain crops. In contrast, U.S. growers often produce many different crops in a small quantity in a same greenhouse to supply local flower markets.
Development of a new crop includes a combination of superior plant material, production technology, and marketing strategy. If any of these three factors is not properly developed and fully implemented, the chance of success is greatly diminished. The purpose of this presentation is to summarize our observations and conclusions on the process of new crops development after 10 years of research in a cooperative program that included the American Floral Endowment (AFE), the Society of American Florists (SAF) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Potted flowering plants, that include African violets, chrysanthemums, florist azaleas, Easter lily, and poinsettias were produced by 2,756 operations and were the second largest commodity group, providing 22% of the total wholesale value of crops valued at $654 million. Poinsettias continue to contribute the most value to the group at a total of $206 million, 3% above the prior year.
Cut flowers were produced by 20% of the growers surveyed while market share of fresh cut flowers decreased from 24.4% in 1981 to 17.7% in 1991 (Table 1). According to the national gardening survey (National Gardening Association 1994), container and herb gardening has increased 10% and 15%, respectively, annually from 1989 to 1993. For flower gardening, the increase was almost 7% annually during the same period. Landscaping, tree service, and fruit tree gardening was up 10%, 19%, and 22% annually, respectively, from 1989 to 1993.
Domestic producers of major cut flower commodities have been greatly affected by imports of cut flowers. Favorable climatic conditions, cost of labor and efficient use of transportation systems have increased offshore flower imports to U.S. markets. In 1971, domestically produced pompon chrysanthemum and rose accounted for 95% and 100% market share, respectively. In 1991, however, domestic production of these cut flowers was only 18% and 52%, respectively (Table 2).
Over one-half of American households (57%) purchased a floral product over the period of July 1992 to 1993 (American Floral Endowment Research Report 1993). Each buying household spent an average annual total of $43.69, making 3.7 purchases averaging $11.85 each. The largest dollar volume outlets include supermarkets at 14% of sales, garden centers at 18% of sales, and most particularly florists, accounting for the market share level of 34% of all flowers purchased.
The largest share of consumer dollars, 38% of total sales, was spent on non-calendar occasions. The largest was contributed by sympathy/funeral occasions (8%), by birthday (7%), and home decoration (7%). The calendar events represented on 18% of sales, the largest of which Christmas was responsible for 6% of the sales.
Cut flowers held the largest share of the consumer dollar, accounting for 41% of spending over the year. Cut flowers were most likely to be mixed flowers at 60% of sales. Outdoor bedding and garden plants accounted for another third, flowering house plants represented about 15%, and green plants finished up with an average of about 10%. Poinsettias were the largest selling fresh flowering house plant accounting for 54% of sales in the Christmas season, but equaling out to 21% of all yearly sales. The remainder that includes chrysanthemums, lilies, azaleas, and African violets all came in at less than 10%. "Other" fresh flowering house plants represented 54% of consumer spending from July 1992 to June 1993.
A new crop in our program was defined as "a plant introduced into commercial culture with a knowledge of production technology and market potential" (Roh and Lawson 1987a). In this regard, any crop can be regarded as a new crop, if there is limited information on culture on controlled flowering (Aeschynanthus), if a crop which is very popular in one country, but not known in another country (Eustoma), or forgotten, but re-introduced (Shortia galacifolia Torr. & Gray). New crops may not effectively compete with well established crops, even when new plants are introduced to the market with complete cultural information. Successful commercialization of a new crop depends not only on the interest of the growers, but results of trial marketing and consumer education. In the final analysis, however, profitability based on the turnover period of a crop in relation to the cost of production and market evaluation will be the basis for a successful introduction. A decision to finally produce and market a new product is the responsibility of the individual grower.
Since the assessment of the market potential of a crop when introduced to commercial culture is time consuming and very difficult, and the outcome is unpredictable, the definition of a new crop could now be stated as "a plant successfully grown commercially based on a knowledge of production technology and available to a consumer with a proven market potential." The term "new" does not necessarily mean that a newly released cultivar is new simply because, for example, flowering time is earlier than the other previously introduced cultivars.
The first step in our program was the acquisition of plant material from both foreign and domestic sources. The plants were initially evaluated to determine general characteristics of propagation, vegetative growth and flowering as influenced by photoperiod and temperature (Roh and Lawson 1992). This production information was provided to grower cooperators and published in trade journal articles. The importance of wide diversity when collecting plant material should be stressed at the beginning of the acquisition. For example, when Columnea hybrids were obtained from Austria through the Netherlands, all hybrids required 6 to 8 weeks of 10°C to induce flowering. However, Columnea hybrids, 'Bold Adventure' and C. erythrophae did not require 10°C for flowering, thus the total production time was reduced by 6 or more weeks as compared to hybrids from Austria.
During the past ten years, several plants have been introduced to the U.S. market through the cooperative program between the USDA and industry. Some of the results of this program including production technology of several new crops is presented.
Several Coprosma species and hybrids ('Beatson's Gold', 'Kirkii Variegata', and 'Coppershine') first caught our attention in Denmark. Stem tip cuttings rooted very easily and rooted cuttings grew very rapidly. Production experiments on nutritional evaluations revealed that leaves would persist for a longer period of time at the home environments without acclimatization period before placed in home, if plants were fertilized with elevated levels of nitrogen.
There was a limited attempt made to introduce Coprosma and introduction was not generally successful. Because it is a foliage, and not a flowering plant, it was not considered sufficiently unique by producers to warrant a major marketing effort through floral outlets. Further, the introduction was not properly timed in early 1980. Now that the cut and pot foliage sales have increased recently ($487 million and 16.8% increase from 1993), and market trends require a small pot size (15 to 25 cm) with value added to increase the profit (Bateman 1995), Coprosma could be reintroduced. Perhaps a more successful marketing strategy would have been to sell this plant through garden centers for landscape uses.
Cupressus, 'Goldcrest' is another plant that we collected. A true conifer, the plant is widely grown in Europe as an indoor green plant. 'Goldcrest' has lemon-scented light green foliage. There are more than 2 million plants auctioned in the Netherlands each year. Following introduction of Cupressus into the U.S. market, the plant failed to reach its potential. This was partially due to a poor rooting results of cooperating growers and difficulties in growing quality plants outdoors. Plants grow rapidly after propagation. However, rooting of Cupressus stem tip cuttings is less than 35% in conventional mist propagation. Rooting of cuttings is significantly increased to more than 85% by controlling watering/misting cycle. Dipping the cuttings in a 2,000 ppm water soluble indole butyric acid (Potassium form of IBA, IBA-K) for a few seconds enhances rooting. Because the cuttings form only one or two roots, they are propagated in Oasis wedge foam cubes to protect tender roots which could be easily damaged during transplanting. For the first 15 to 30 days, cuttings are placed under an intermittent mist, 6 sec of mist every 12 to 15 min over 12 to 16 h. For the next 30 days, misting frequency is decreased, misting every 30 min. Cuttings are finally placed in a greenhouse and watered twice a day. Because the potted plant requires a lot of water proper watering to prevent drying out of the growing medium was essential for successful commercial production.
Aeschynanthus also received our attention in 1984 in Denmark. In the past, A. specious Hook., was marketed as green foliage plant due to a fact that controlled flowering was very difficult. Although flowering can be manipulated by controlling temperatures, control is too imprecise to enable growers to force this plant year-round. Although mature plants respond to temperature, flowering from newly rooted cuttings is unpredictable. Cuttings from stock plants grown at 18°/17°C, day/night, flowered earlier as compared to plants grown at higher temperatures. (Whitton et al. 1990).
Achimenes longiflora, D.C., and Columnea hybrids were also evaluated as potted plants for forcing during winter. Due to a dormancy that lasts more than 3 months, rhizomes of certain gesneriads, such as Achimenantha could not be used. Therefore, tissue culture propagation was employed to maintain stock plants of Achimenantha, 'Inferno' in vitro. Flower buds were the best source for forming 20 to 33 adventitious shoots per explant that are generally weak. However, from each rhizome scale, three strong shoots were formed in 8 weeks and flowered in less than 70 days, when explants were taken in February. Shoots were transplanted to soil in May. Although stock plants can be maintained in vitro, flower petals are easily damaged, which created difficulties in shipping. Therefore, Achimenes and Achimenantha was not officially released to growers.
Another plant that came to our attention in mid 1984 was Eustoma. All Eustoma cultivars were originally bred for cut flowers in Japan (Roh et al. 1990). In the early 1980s, there were no dwarf genotypes and pot plants were produced from long stemmed cut flower cultivars with the use of growth regulators. We initiated a project on the selection of superior forms from tissue culture. This research resulted in the introduction of the first genetic dwarf Eustoma selected as a somaclonal variant (Griesbach et al. 1988). Cultural information of this first dwarf Eustoma was made available to commercial growers through trade magazine articles (Lawson 1990; Roh 1988).
Dwarf Eustoma, 'Little Belle Blue' was successfully tested and was selected as a winner of the Florastar competition in 1990. However, no official announcement was made since there was not a sufficient number of seeds (a minimum of 500,000 seeds) available for distribution at the time of the planned introduction. Since dwarf cultivars later became available from the commercial companies, there was not sufficient interest by companies to produce 'Little Belle Blue' seeds. New cultivars developed from publically funded research thus has a limitation, when product is not developed commercially.
Dwarf Clematis hybrids is an interesting product that we have obtained from Japan. The Sakata Seed Inc., has hybridized genetically dwarf forms. The plants can be grown in winter and sold through floral outlets when they are forced into flower in spring time. Flowers last in the home environment about 10 days. After flowering, the plant can be grown in the garden.
The major disadvantage of dwarf Clematis is the slow production time of 2 to 3 years. Because of their genetic dwarf characteristic, stock plants produce a limited number of cuttings. Also, cuttings root slowly. Plants large enough to market as 10 cm pots (one plant) or 15 cm pots (2 plants) will require 2 years. In some markets the plants can be sold at a premium price. Pot Clematis will predictably be a successful crop based on a test marketing trial we conducted.
Some of the plants from Japan that we evaluated generally require a minimum of 7 months (Eustoma) to 2 to 3 years (Gentiana F1 hybrid, 'Iwate Otome' and Clematis) to produce a salable plant. Although these crops are popular in Japan, they will probably be successfully marketed in the U.S. only by specialty growers because of the long cropping time. Several hybrids of dwarf gentian, Gentiana triflora var. japonica Hara are easily propagated by stem cutting and flower around July/Aug. in Beltsville. However, after flowering, dried flowers must be removed and this could be a limiting factor to promote Gentiana as a potted plant. Since the popularity of perennials is increasing now, Gentiana and Clematis could be reevaluated and introduced as a flowering potted plant for early spring season followed by planting in the garden to flower in subsequent years.
Plants less than 11 to 12 weeks old from tissue culture propagation do not respond to an inductive treatment. After this period of vegetative growth, flower buds can be formed by a 4 to 6 weeks of 12.8°C at night. After flower induction, temperatures can be maintained at 15° to 18°C to control the time of flowering.
Although a 12.8°C treatment is necessary for floral induction, some dwarf cultivars can flower even when temperatures are maintained between 15° and 20°C.
Although a considerable effort was made to popularize kangaroo paw as a pot plant, it was not accepted by the U.S. public. Perhaps one reason was the lack of consumer education about the product. Also, plants produced in California and shipped to the East Coast were priced too high, which can be attributed to the high cost of tissue cultured plantlets associated with the image of a new product. This did not compete with potted chrysanthemums or cyclamen that U.S. consumers easily recognized.
The Australian wax flower, Chamaelaucium uncinatum Schau, has been produced in southern California as a cut flower and filler in flower arrangements. Experiments at Beltsville growing a dwarf form of Chamaelaucium 'Purple Pride' have demonstrated the potential of this plant for pot production. Cultural information on propagation and controlled flowering has been made available to U.S. producers. Floral induction is accelerated by 8 to 10 h of short day photoperiod at 20°/15° to 18°C and the post-production life of potted plants is very long. Although the plant has not been widely grown, partially due to a long cropping time of about 6 months, it has good potential as a new pot plant. Chamaelaucium has been recently introduced to Japan and South Africa.
Other woody plant material from Australia with a potential as a new pot plant was Correa hybrid, 'Mannii', C. baeuerlenii F. Muell, and C. reflexa (Labill.) Vent. Propagation and culture of these plants is not difficult. One of the limiting factors to produce these Australian plants is that flower buds are formed only in the middle and lower portion of stem, thus showing vegetative growth at the tip of the stem. Plants Eriostemon myoporoides DC that showed shattering of flowers and poor shipping characteristics were also evaluated.
Leptospermum scoparium nanum, 'Kea' from New Zealand produces large dark red flowers. This plant showed some promise as a potted plant. However, shattering of flowers and short post-production keeping quality did not warrant introduction. This plant could be tested and evaluated as a large container plant for outdoor use.
Lachenalia is a bulbous geophyte belonging to the Liliaceae. It is native to the south-western Cape and Namaqualand. Inflorescence initiation occurs at high temperature (20° to 25°C) and is inhibited at low temperatures (10° to 15°C) (Louw 1991; Roh et al. 1995). Since bulbs grown in South Africa are harvested in Oct.-Nov., bulbs must be stored for more than 6 to 8 months so that Lachenalia can be forced during winter in the northern hemisphere. Bulbs stored at 15°C for 195 days initiated an inflorescence when transferred to 25°C in less than 115 days and flowered without any problems associated with a long term storage (Roh et al. 1995). Storing bulbs at 10° to 15°C for 45 days when 6 to 8 florets were developed accelerated flowering and reduced the leaf length significantly as compared to bulbs stored at 20° to 25°C. Flowering was also accelerated by forcing at 17°/15°C. However, the number of florets were reduced when flowering was accelerated.
Ornithogalum commonly grown as a cut flower, also has been evaluated as a pot plant. Interspecific hybrids between O. thyrsoides Jacq., and O. dubium were obtained through embryo rescue and a short stemmed Ornithogalum with yellow flower color was created (Griesbach et al. 1993). Leaf cuttings can be used for propagation although tissue culture multiplication is a very efficient method used to rapidly increase selected genotypes. Lachenalia and Ornithogalum are both susceptible to at least one aphid transmitted potyvirus, Ornithogalum mosaic virus. Control of this virus will be essential for successful culture of these crops.
Many of the new specialty crops are grown as annuals. They can be grown from seed less expensively than perennial or bulb crops. Annuals also have the advantage that they can be timed for harvest by controlling the date of sowing the seed. Several commonly grown summer cut flowers are listed in Table 3. In addition to their use as fresh flowers, some of the genera are also used as dried flowers.
A major problem in the production and marketing of specialty cut flowers is the possible instability of the market. There is a danger that high demand of a particular product may soon result in over-production, a rapid drop in price, and a loss of crop value.
Annuals that include sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.) have been evaluated. Sunflower seeds germinate in less than a week at 21° to 23°C and will flower in two to three months at forcing temperatures of 21° to 26°C/15° to 18°C, day/night. An ideal cultivar for potted plant use is 'Big Smile' which grows to about 30 cm (Roh 1993a). A balloon flower, Platycodon grandiflorus (Jacq.) A. DC., has been tested from seeds to produce potted plants. Seeds germinate in 15 days at 21°C. Plants from seedlings that germinated in Dec. result in flowering after forcing at 21° to 23°C/18°C under a natural photoperiod condition with supplemental lighting from a high pressure sodium lamps. Among several cultivars evaluated, 'Sentimental Blue' seems to be the ideal one for a potted plant and also bedding plant production. Flowering was unaffected by photoperiod, however, the number of flowers produced per plant was increased by a long day photoperiod (Song et al. 1993).
We also tested Sinningia cardinalis and other hybrids starting from seeds to produce plants expressing uniform flower color and flower tube length in seven months. Growth and flowering depend primarily on temperature. Photoperiod does not have a significant effect on flowering. Seeds germinate in about 15 days at 21° to 23°C and seedlings are transplanted in 5 x 5 cm cell packs and grown under a full sun light at 23° to 26°C/18° to 21°C until flower buds become visible. Light intensity is lowered by about 30 percent during the summer for 30 to 40 days to increase the number of flowers. During the summer, supplemental lighting from a high pressure sodium lamps is recommended (Roh 1993b).
Recent advances have been made at the University of Kentucky in the production of single stemmed roses (R.G. Anderson 1994, pers. commun.). 'Lady Diana' and 'Samantha' roses grown from cuttings can be harvested in 7 to 8 weeks after rooted cuttings are potted. Cuttings are planted into individual pots so they can be moved by pot handling robots. The plants are grown on a palletized ebb and flood bench system at a density of approximately 100 stems per square meter. It may be possible that cut flowers can be shipped with roots and graded to maintain freshness using this system.
Similarly, Lilium longiflorum Thunb., from seeds, L. xelegans Thunb., from bulbils, and their interspecific hybrids (LAIH hybrids) from tissue cultured propagules can be produced in 11 months as potted plants or cut flowers (Roh 1992). For seed propagated lilies, attempts have been made to eliminate traits of L. formosanum since this is very susceptible to virus infection. L. xelegans can be produced from stem bulbils and LA hybrids from tissue cultured propagules. With this method, the bulb production phase in the field can be eliminated.
Method for producing Lilium species (Roh 1992) is briefly summarized. It takes 47 weeks from flowering or 40 weeks after the harvest of bulbils to produce commercially acceptable quality cut flowers.
|1.||7 weeks:||400 to 500 mg bulbils are harvested 7 weeks after flowering.|
|2.||8 weeks:||Bulbils are packed in peatmoss and treated in a sequence of 5°C for 3 weeks, 10° to 13°C for 14 days, and 5°C for 3 weeks.|
|3.||12 weeks:||Bulbils are potted and grown until termination of scaly leaf formation at 26° to 32°C/21° to 26°C, day/night, under natural long day conditions.|
|4.||4 weeks:||Greenhouse is maintained at 16°C/10°C under a natural photoperiod.|
|5.||6 weeks:||Greenhouse is maintained at 16° to 21°C/10° to 13°C under a 16 h of long day to induce shoot emergence.|
|6.||10 weeks:||Temperature is gradually increased or adjusted from 10°C at night to 18°C to force and control flowering.|
Acceptance of a new crop depends on growers, consumers and marketing skills. There is a need to more thoroughly assess the potential of a new crop by applying several plant related criteria such as short turnover production time, good keeping quality, a good display with multiple flowers or buds at the time sale and other characteristics. Consumer preferences, such as consumer expectations, must also be evaluated. (Lawson and Roh 1995).
We know U.S. growers want new plants to produce and the public wants more variety and assortment of new crops. In many fields of business and industry consumer trends and buying habits are closely monitored as forecasts of future product innovations are developed. This type of data gathering and analysis for the floral industry is becoming more important as the industry grows. Future expansion of the floriculture industry in the U.S. is predictable. The challenge is to develop products and marketing plans based on a refined knowledge of consumer trends and buying habits.
|Market share (%)|
|Year||Cut flowers||Potted flowering||Foliage plants||Bedding plants||Cut foliage||Total sales ($billion)|
|Domestic (% of supply)||Imports (% of supply)||Total supply (1,000)|
|Year||Pompon mum||Roses||Pompon mum||Roses||Roses (bunch)||Roses (stems)|