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Research helps UK Poinsettia growers beat foreign imports & smaller window sills

Poinsettia plants remain a popular Christmas purchase in the UK but British poinsettia growers have to battle against a tidal wave of imports from Continental Europe.

Now researchers at the University of Warwick are providing British poinsettia growers with the techniques to grow as many poinsettia plants as their European rivals while maintaining the high quality of UK grown poinsettias. The researchers have also developed some new tricks to cope with the shrinking size of UK window sills.

British growers have to compete with continental European poinsettia growing techniques that produce more plants per square metre - but often at the expense of producing a weaker less quality plant. Now researchers, led by Dr Debbie Fuller at the University of Warwick's plant research arm Warwick HRI, have devised methods that could allow up to a 66% increase in the number of poinsettias that UK growers can produce while maintaining a strong high quality plant.

One of the techniques devised by the Warwick researchers uses lighting controls to manipulate the length of day experienced by poinsettia plants. This manipulation keeps the plant in its "green" stage for a longer period, delaying the appearance of the characteristic red leaves. This technique will allow UK growers to increase plant yields while still producing very strong, symmetrical high quality plants.

The Warwick team have brought together what is believed the largest collection of different Poinsettia varieties ever assembled in the UK, 22 different types of the plant, for field trials to help UK growers expand the range of commercially poinsettias to attract new customers to the plant. For instance some younger customers want more dramatic or unusual poinsettias such as the "Freedom Fireworks" variety. There is also interest in examining varieties targeted at the problem of the decreasing size of British window sills which require plants with smaller bases but which retain dramatic floral displays. The trials even have an answer for those who want a poinsettia that really stands out from the rest with varieties of poinsettia with yellow or white leaves at the top of the plant in place of the traditional red.

Peter Dunn | alfa
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