The Fragile Floral Chain
The floral chain is actually rather fragile. It starts with a breeder, the inventor of flowers. But before these flowers are in the consumer's living room or in some office they have made quite a journey through this floral chain, sometimes to the other end of the world. So, how to get these flowers in optimal condition to the end-user? This concern already starts during the breeding process and is continuously monitored on its journey. The first station after the breeder is the grower. If this shackle in the chain deranges the process, the whole invention of the breeder goes to waste, no matter how grand the flower was during the invention and no matter how proud the breeder is at its creation. And for products like chrysants, here is where people like René Corsten of Delphy comes in. His insights are important not only for the chrysant grower but for the rest of the floral chain too.
What is Delphy?
"Delphy is a worldwide expert in food & flowers, employing 250 people. They give independent advice, training, and research in agri- and horticulture. René Corsten is the international Senior Advisor Chrysant and an expert in many other flower species. He trains flower growers all over the world to perfect their harvest."
So you are a chrysant specialist. What's so special about this product?
"Did you know that chrysants need sleep, just like us? Their seasonal rhythm requires about just as much light as darkness. This comes from the original cultivation when chrysanthemums were autumn flowers. When the days started shortening with nights longer than eight hours, the plant instinctively knew that it was time to sprout, start growing and blooming. For many years, growers have mastered this by fooling the flower a little bit, having it think that it's autumn all year round. Don't worry, it does not hurt the plant, it's merely remarkable how people are able to get a grip on nature in a positive way. I like the fact that chrysant growers are not shy about collaborating. This is necessary to improve the product chrysant itself and to raise the overall quality of the product. Ten years ago 80 grams was heavy for a chrysant, nowadays this can be 100 grams. This brings new challenges as the biomass in the box increases, leading to a demand for a more so-called 'vandal-proof' flower. As far as chrysant Pina Colada is concerned, I advise all six growers up to a certain degree and I can use the information from one of these growers with another Pina Colada grower to improve also his production."
How did Delphy approach improving the chrysanthemum Pina Colada?
"Some growers were already producing a great chrysant Pina Colada, but I think that we have been able to lift the product a little bit more. So, when I started my consultancy of Pina Colada growers I began monitoring the temperature at which this flower was grown. We noticed that, especially during the winter period, the stem was rather fragile and broke easily. This is never an issue during the summer because when this flower gets plenty of sun it will develop a thick and robust stem. Research that came from the Dümmen Orange location in South Africa helped us here. It proved that temperature was not the problem, it could stand cold nights too. So, the light was the decisive factor here. It appeared that Pina Colada was not vulnerable."
So, light and temperature play an important factor. What else?
"Besides a good balance between light and temperature, there are even more technical matters that determine the end result for a grower. How much CO2 do I want to get maximal assimilation, the production of sugars? And I look at the climate in the greenhouse, helping the grower to set the best parameters in the climate computer for a period. These are also key performance indicators. The next checks are: How is the level of crop protection? What is the optimal fertilization? You don't want the plant to absorb too much nitrogen, because then it will suffer from obesity. Compare it to overfeeding chickens or growing watery tomatoes, this is similar. Fertilization must be optimized! In the end, it is preparing the optimal mix for a grower. To get a little bit more technical, it is the ratio between nitrogen and chlor and sulfate, and the ratio between potassium and calcium."
There are more varieties in the market these days next to the original white Pina Colada. Is there a difference in how to grow them?
"No, there is no difference. I estimate that 99,9% of the genetics are the same. You can copy-paste the exact parameters to the Pina Colada Cream and Pina Colada Yellow and to future colors of this flower."
Are you happy with how you see Pina Colada in the market?
"The grower is now able to get everything out of Pina Colada. That is good news. The six growers are capable of bringing the summer top-quality year-round. So, not only I am happy, but consumers can be happy too. However, the coronavirus messed up this progress towards a perfect product. Half March, when the product was very good, the prices of all flowers dropped dramatically. And when flowers are cheap a trader tends to go for a similar chrysant that has proven itself for a long time in the market, not a relative newcomer.
In the end, I am nothing more than a lubricant, just a coach, standing at the line. I am not the one who determines the company policy with a grower. I motivate the grower to get everything out of their produce. Nowadays, I see Pina Colada's market develop better, starting towards Eastern Europe. It may take a while, but it's getting there."
Vase Quality Starts at the Breeder
When the chrysants of Pina Colada still have a whole journey to complete before consumers can enjoy their splendor, vase quality already starts at the breeder and grower. And the role of René Corsten and his colleagues in the Delphy Chrysant Team cannot be underestimated.