The aesthetic value of flowers, their significant use in social events and the high income generating ability are attracting modern entrepreneurs to invest money in the floriculture industry. Commercial floriculture has been recognized as an economic activity with the potential of generating employment and earning valuable foreign exchange due to its demand potential in overseas market.
The global consumption of cut flowers and plants is increasing steadily at an annual rate of 10 to 20% in all floriculture importing countries viz. Netherlands, USA, Japan, Germany, Italy, Denmark, etc. Many flower producing countries have extreme winters with sub-zero temperatures and low sun light. This results in higher production cost and hence seasonal variation in flower production. Thus, they have to depend largely on imports as most of the festivals fall during this period. On the other hand, India has varied agro-climatic and soil conditions, which are conducive for the production of cut flowers.
Gerbera, named in honour of German naturalist Traugott Gerber, is a very attractive commercial cut flower crop with huge international demand. In modern hi-tech method Gerberas are grown in poly-houses. The quality and quantity of the flowers produced are far better because of the controllable temperature, humidity, light, ventilation etc. The height of poly-house is normally 3.5 to 4 m and sufficient ventilation is provided on the top and sides. The light intensity required for the plants are maintained using shade nets. The normal life of a poly-house in nearly 20 years.
Gerbera plantation in poly-house near Bhopal
Normally Gerbera plants are grown on soil bed of height 1.5 feet and width of 2 feet. The soil used should be highly porous, airy and well drained to have better root growth. The optimum pH value of soil should be between 5.5 to 6.5; so as to have efficient nutrients absorption. Before plantation the soil should be disinfected by methyl bromide or formalin to get rid of fungus. Generally two rows with a distance of 37.5 cm are planted on each bed. A separation of nearly 30 cm is kept between the plants in the same row. Pathway of approximately 1 foot is left after every bed to facilitate movement.
Planting can be done round the year but months of September and October are preferred. After the plantation, the plants are irrigated with overhead micro-sprinklers for 4 weeks. The plants start flowering in 7 to 8 weeks after the plantation. Organic manure is recommended for soil texture and nutrition. Super phosphate and MgSO4 are also used for better root establishment. The optimum temperature for flower initiation is 23 to 25 oC and the humidity should be between 80 to 85%. Plants are irrigated by micro sprinklers until the flowers are produced, thereafter drippers are used. The water requirement is approximately 700 ml/plant/day. In summer season foggers may be used to get the needed humidity, but care should be taken that the humidity should not exceed 90 to 92% as it will lead to flower deformation. Leaf servicing and loosening of soil are done to maintain the plants. Pesticides or fungicides are also sprayed as per the need. The annual yield is 30 to 32 flowers/plant.
After harvesting flowers are sorted into different grades according to stem length, size of bud, etc. Each flower is covered with plastic leaf to prevent damage to stamens. Flower are kept in bunches and are tightly packed in CFB boxes to avoid damage during transportation. Great care is needed while packing, handling, storage and transportation.
Thus, floriculture is basically a labour intensive industry. Major constraints faced by hi-tech floriculturist in India are:
1. Huge investment,
2. Irregular supply of electricity,
3. Scarcity of labour,
4. Non-availability of good quality indigenous plants,
5. Poor harvest during rainy season,
6. Pest and disease attack,
7. Demand variation according to season,
8. Inadequate cold storage facility,
9. Price fluctuations,
10. Absence of organized retail market, etc.