Floralife Research Updates are a valuable source of flower knowledge aimed at helping growers, transporters, wholesalers and retailers get the most from their investment, and present healthy, long-lasting flowers to the consumer. Let’s take a look at a recent flower processing essay, “Sanitation: A Critical Aspect of Flower Care and Handling.”
This Research Update, by Terril Nell, Ph.D., AAF Professor Emeritus, University of Florida Environmental Horticulture Department, opens with a sobering statistic: “Use of bacteria-contaminated water is a serious problem for the floral industry at all points of handling and distribution. A 1995 Dutch study found that nearly 70 percent of retail florists and supermarkets in Europe and the U.S. used water with levels of bacteria high enough to reduce flower vase life and kill flowers.”
So, why is bacteria-contaminated water such a problem? As you know, flowers keep drinking water after they have been harvested. Good water uptake requires open, blockage-free stems. Bacterial contamination at the site of stem cuts as well as further up the stem cause blockages. So bacteria in hydration solutions and vase solutions lead to premature flower death. Bacteria collects in the bottom 4 inches of the stem. It multiplies in the stem and in the vase water. When there is enough bacteria to block water flow, air bubbles form in the stem and flowers die prematurely.
Where does the bacteria originate? It can come from a multitude of sources around the cut flower work area, including:
- Prep buckets
- Measuring tools
- Work surfaces
- Cooler walls, shelves and floors
- Shipping and packing areas
How do you fight this? How do you keep your hydration solution clean? One word: Sanitation. All of those tools and areas mentioned above? Sanitize them regularly! Dr. Nell suggests “Seven Rules of Cleanliness” for flower care and handling. Here are the bullets:
- Use only sanitized water for flower hydration solution.
- Clean buckets with sanitized water and professional bucket cleaner.
- Use ONLY anti-bacterial commercial hydration and flower food solutions.
- Mix clean, fresh solutions daily.
- Clean and disinfect cutting tools several times a day
- Sanitize cooler walls monthly.
- Become a Sanitation Fanatic!
It seems like sanitation should be an attitude, as well as an activity, something to bear in mind constantly. So, keep it clean! A good place to start is to read the Research Update – there is a lot more information there. We also have a short care and handling video on sanitation at our YouTube page. Don’t forget, Floralife has some really effective sanitation products to help you get the job done!
Have you made an effort to improve your sanitation? Have you seen a difference? Let us know in the comments section!