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Novelty needed for top-end of world flower market

13 February 2005

Novelty needed for top-end of the world flower market

Chocolate roses, looking and smelling like the sweet treat, are a dream.

Like blue orchids and red gentians, chocolate roses have been unattainable. Now that is changing as scientists work with breeders to meet the challenges of finding novel, high-value products for export markets.

"New Zealand represents the champagne, top-end niche of the world flower market and we've got to produce crops that command top prices in this fashion-driven industry," says Lyall Fieldes, Managing Director of New Zealand's biggest floriculture export company, Flowerzone.

He says New Zealand has an excellent reputation for being innovative with new cultivar development and for having a quality product.

"We must sustain our reputation for further growth," he says. "New flowers and novel colours, like the red gentian now in commercial trials, are important to the industry's future. We also need to develop flowers that grow well here when there is market demand, but grow poorly in the Northern Hemisphere at the same time. We need to avoid blooms that grow well at altitude in flower-producing countries like Ecuador, Columbia and Kenya."

New technologies and systems are being used to produce previously only dreamed of novel blooms.

"Understanding plant breeding and plant physiology helps us to develop techniques and systems to develop new products," says Ed Morgan, ornamental scientist at Crop & Food Research.

Mr Morgan helped with the development of the red gentian which is much sought after, particularly by the Japanese. He says, "The use of a range of in vitro breeding techniques allows us to make crosses for interspecific hybrids that aren't possible with traditional breeding and to shorten the time between new generations. Also, scientists can improve crop production, extend and move the flowering time of crops and extend the shelf-life and quality of a bloom."

Research is the key to staying a step ahead of the rest of the floriculture world and getting premium prices says Louise Sheehan, chairperson of the New Zealand Flower Exporters Association.

"Research is important in developing novel flowers, speeding up the time it takes to get them to market, and ensuring its easy to grow lots to a high quality," Ms Sheehan said.

An evocative, multi-sensorial experience - like a whiff of chocolate as you admire your bunch of flowers from a loved one - or the opportunity to show that latest fashion - perhaps blue orchids - at a dinner party may not be too far away. And, New Zealand could well be the first to attain these floral dreams.

Photographs The following images are available at: edia/index.jsp

1. Red gentian & Cyrtanthus bouquet 2. Lyall Fieldes 3. Ed Morgan

Facts - New Zealand's floriculture industry

Quick Facts Exports * Exports of cut flowers, plants and bulbs are worth $120 million, up 30% in the past decade.

* Cut flower exports have increased nearly five -fold from $8 million in 1985 to $39 million in 2005

* Biggest sellers internationally are o Orchids with sales of $18.4 million o Zantedeschia (calla) with sales of $5.5 million o Hydrangea with sales of $2.8 million o Peonies with sales of $1.2 million

* Bulb exports have more than doubled, to more than $25 million, in the last five years

* Japan is the single largest export market. It takes $30 million of cut flowers, bulbs and tubers, including $12 million of orchids.

* The domestic market for cut flowers is estimated to be $70 million

Key players There are a few large flower growing companies and many smaller operations run by a single person or couple who have other employment.

Grower groups include: New Zealand Export Growers of Orchids Association New Zealand Flowers Exporters Association Northern Flower Growers Association

R&D Crop & Food Research works with commercial partners to help meet the fashion, quality and production demands of the industry. Research areas include: * Production of novel cultivars using advanced breeding techniques

* Understanding plant pigment expression in breeding

* Development of rapid multiplication techniques in tissue culture

* Maximising production, extending flowering windows and minimising disease

* Extending shelf-life and enhancing bloom appearance

International Awards won by flowers developed at Crop & Food Research are:

Merite Award France's Courson 2005 Begonia Bonfire Gold Medal South Africa's Gardenex 2002 Limonium Chorus magenta Best Flower Columbia's Proflora 2002 Limonium Chorus magenta


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