Flower bulbs worldwide: perspectives on the production chain and research

W.B. Miller
Ornamental geophytes, more commonly known as bulbs, corms, tubers, rhizomes, crowns, tuberous roots, and others, comprise an important segment of the world's floriculture industry. The three main markets for flower bulbs are: 1) cut flowers, 2) potted plants, and 3) use in the landscape. One can estimate that the cut-flower industry consumes 70% of all bulbs produced, pot plants, 10%, and landscape plantings, 20%. The percentages per segment vary by country and past industry or societal tradition. As pointed out by De Hertogh, flower bulbs are creatures of temperature, and, optimally, bulbs are held in controlled temperatures at all phases when they are not growing in the field. Proper storage conditions (temperature, airflow, humidity, length) are essential for preserving the ultimate horticultural potential of the bulb. The most likely chain segment for temperature failure is in transit, whether on the ocean or land. The Netherlands is the world leader in bulb production. This is likely to continue even while alternative production areas are explored, simply because of the inherent experience of the major systems suppliers (field equipment, storage systems, disease and quality control, etc.). The newer southern hemisphere production regions (New Zealand, Chile, Tasmania, Brazil, and others) allow year-round availability of the main bulbous species. Advanced storage techniques (for example, freezing, with or without low oxygen in lilies) allow longer storage periods with less quality loss. One must ask, however, whether increasing production and better storage techniques may contribute to an oversupply of bulbs, thereby lowering prices. Opening new production areas will contribute to new disease and production challenges (e.g., Plantago asiatica mosaic virus, PLAMV, in lilies). The worldwide research infrastructure in flower bulbs has changed dramatically in the last 20-25 years. Changes in funding at the university/institute and whole-country levels have had profound effects on the world flower bulb research community. As a result, a major challenge for the future will be to develop the capacity of research and outreach personnel new to flower bulbs to understand the industry and to keep their research relevant to the industry and/or society. During this symposium, these and other issues will be discussed.
Miller, W.B. (2017). Flower bulbs worldwide: perspectives on the production chain and research. Acta Hortic. 1171, 1-8
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2017.1171.1
floriculture, geophytes, production systems, plant quality

Acta Horticulturae