Consumer preference and postharvest life of field-grown, fresh-cut sunflowers
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There is a developing market for field-grown cut flowers in Texas. The overall goal of this study was to produce a field-grown cut flower crop in Lubbock, Texas to be marketed locally. A survey of Lubbock, Texas florists revealed sunflowers (Helianthus annuus L.) were favored by most. Sunflower is a crop grown on 21,853 hectares in Texas harvested for either seed or oil. Since agronomic cultivars were already in production in our area, they were included in this study to evaluate their marketability as a cut flower. Eight agronomic and eight ornamental sunflower cultivars were grown in a variety trial in the summer of 2006 in a completely randomized block design. To learn which cultivars consumers preferred, a study was conducted where stems were harvested and photographed when inflorescences were at "partly open" and "fully open" stages. Local florists and Texas Tech University students participated in an online Sunflower Cultivar Survey which included the sunflower images, where florists were asked if they would use the cultivar for sale, and students if they would buy the cultivar. Demographic data was collected from each group. Mean ratings of responses were determined for each cultivar. Both groups gave high ratings to agronomic and ornamental cultivars. Florists responded they would sell agronomic cultivars and students responded they would buy an agronomic cultivar. Days to flowering of a cultivar is important for a grower to consider when planning sowing dates, since some sunflower cultivars may be more marketable in a specific season. The actual days to flowering in the field did not correspond with the days to flowering provided by the seed companies for some cultivars. In a second study, postharvest life of stems harvested from the field-grown sunflowers was investigated. Inflorescences were harvested when ray florets were open 45°. Stems were kept in double distilled (DD) water or floral preservative in a factorial arrangement of treatments. Ten days is the floral industry standard for the postharvest life of cut flowers. Most sunflower cultivars in this study met or exceeded the 10-day mark regardless if kept in DD water or floral preservative. Some cultivars demonstrated a significantly longer postharvest life when kept in floral preservative than when kept in DD water. Significant differences in postharvest life occurred between cultivars.