Sunday, October 17, 2010

From the Farm to Your Vase

Most people buy their roses either from a florist or at a supermarket. These flowers are grown commercially on large farms and require much more attention than the backyard variety. A visit to one such farm located near Nairobi revealed to us the extra care that goes into preparing the flowers for market.

Polyethylene greenhouse
Here, as elsewhere in Kenya, elaborate polyethylene greenhouses readily identify the commercial rose farm. These structures serve several purposes. The newly grafted roses are delicate and require protection from harsh weather. Heavy rain, wind, or direct sunlight can wreak havoc on them. To maintain a constant temperature, it is necessary that cool air enter the greenhouse easily and hotter air be expelled.

Inside the greenhouses there are rows of young flowers in different stages of growth. At this farm several types of roses are cultivated, ranging from the popular hybrid tea rose, cut at a little longer than 27 inches, to the 14-inch-long sweetheart rose, a particular type of hybrid tea rose. The two and a half acres here may contain up to 70,000 plants.

How do the plants receive their nutrients? Ordinary soil is not used. The flower bed is made up of pumice (volcanic rocks) laid on polyethylene sheets. This is a preferred method, as the rocks are free from many soilborne diseases. The drip-irrigation concept is employed to water the plants. In this method small pipes are directed to the flower bed, discharging the water and other nutrients in well-regulated quantities. Being porous, the volcanic material allows water to drain from the plastic bed. Then it is collected and reused.

Despite the specialized care provided, roses can become infected by a number of diseases, mainly caused by funguses. These include botrytis and powdery mildew, which attack the leaves and stems of the plants. Left unchecked, these diseases can adversely affect the flower quality. Applying fungicides helps control the problem.

Ready for harvesting
As time passes, some bright colors begin to show up, a clear indication that the roses are ready for harvesting. The flowers are carefully cut at the tight-bud stage. At this point the petals have yet to unfold. Harvesting at this time enhances the life span of the cut flowers as well as their color retention. However, the harvesting stage may vary slightly from variety to variety. It is vital to cut the flowers in either the morning or the late afternoon, when humidity is high and wilting is slower. Harvested flowers are then taken to the cold room for precooling. This too ensures that the roses remain fresh for a longer period of time.

The flowers will pass through another vital phase—the grading stage. Here they are separated according to color and size. Packaging is done according to customer requirements. Finally, the flowers are ready for market. From this farm they are transported to the main airport in Nairobi, and from there they will be exported to Europe, thousands of miles away. Because they are highly perishable, the flowers should reach the market, local or international, within 24 hours of harvesting.

The next time you receive a bouquet of roses as a gift or buy them from a supermarket or a florist, pause and think of the long journey they may have made, possibly even from Africa. Possibly it will enhance your appreciation for the Creator, Jehovah God.—Psalm 115:15.

Ghost, OUT!

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