Pre- and Postharvest Practices for Optimizing the Postharvest Quality of Cut Sunflower, Dahlia, and Delphinium


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Virginia Tech


The primary objective of this research was to identify practices by which specialty cut flower growers can extend the vase life of cut delphinium, sunflower, and dahlia. Experiments investigated the effects of nitrogen fertilization rate on delphinium 'Guardian Mix' and the effects of deficit irrigation on delphinium 'Guardian Blue.' 'Guardian Mix' plants produced marketable cut stems at nitrogen rates as low as 50 mg/L. Deficit irrigation did not change vase life, stomatal conductance, or transpiration rates of delphinium 'Guardian Blue.' Studies tested the effects of foliar calcium applications or benzyladenine application on sunflower 'Moulin Rouge' and 'Procut Lemon.' Calcium did not change the vase life, stomatal conductance, or transpiration rates of either sunflower cultivar. Benzyladenine applied as a preharvest spray or a postharvest dip did not alter vase life of sunflower 'Moulin Rouge' or 'Procut Lemon.' Transpiration rate and conductance rates of sunflowers significantly decreased in the first three days after harvest. In both sunflower experiments, vase life of 'Moulin Rouge' was shorter than vase life of 'Procut Lemon.' Benzyladenine was also applied to dahlia 'Park Princess' and 'Karma Yin Yang' cut flowers. Benzyladenine did not change dahlia vase life. Dahlia 'Park Princess,' 'Bride to Be,' 'Cherish,' and 'Lollipop' cut flowers were not sensitive to exogenous ethylene. Further experiments tested the effect of flower stage at harvest, vase water temperature, or preharvest fungicide application on dahlia 'Park Princess' and 'Karma Yin Yang' cut flowers. Vase life of 'Park Princess' flowers was extended when flowers were harvested before fully open, but 'Park Princess' flowers harvested at budbreak failed to open completely after harvest. 'Karma Yin Yang' cut flower vase life did not differ when flowers were harvested at different stages. Placing cut dahlias in hot vase water had varied effects, but did not extend vase life of either cultivar. Fungicide applications extended vase life of 'Park Princess' flowers. However, the use of fungicide is not necessary to prevent postharvest fungal infection in cut dahlias. The results of all experiments indicate that optimal handling practices vary between cut flower taxa and that factors determining cut flower vase life are complex.



Helianthus annuus, cut flowers, vase life, Nitrogen, calcium, water deficit, plant growth regulators, benzyladenine