The role of nutrient solution composition on the uptake of nutrients, growth and vase life of tulips grown hydroponically under South African conditions
An understanding and optimisation of the key agronomical aspects required for successful hydroponic cultivation of cut tulips in South Africa, a warm production region, is essential to unlock its commercial potential. In this study the effect of nutrient solution composition, cultivar and physiological bulb age on the growth, postharvest parameters and vase life of hydroponically forced cut tulips was evaluated. Nutrition trials were performed using two bulb maturities for four commercial tulip cultivars grown in Standard Steiner solution (a nutrient solution used by tulip producers in South Africa), a nutrient solution used by tulip producers in Belgium (‘Europe’), and the latter solution amended for nitrogen (Europe + NH4 +). Nutrient solution did not affect the mean scape growth (88.6 mm), but the Standard Steiner (251.9 cm2) and Europe (237.7 cm2) nutrient solutions produced plants with the largest leaf areas. Flowers with the longest vase life were produced in Europe (5.4 d) using early-forced bulbs and in Standard Steiner (8.5 d) using late-forced bulbs. ‘Leen van der Mark’ displayed the longest vase life in both trials. Early- and late-forced bulbs differed in terms of growth, all postharvest parameters evaluated and vase life, with late-forced bulbs resulting in longer vase life.
Keywords: bulb age, calcium, hydroponics, nutrition, postharvest studies