Learn all about cut flower production - from cultivation through to marketing a crop
- Study all of the elements necessary
for the production and marketing of a cut flower crop.
- Understand plant requirements - soils, nutrients, water, environmental controls.
- Learn how a harvest is managed.
- Tailor your studies in selected areas of cut flowers with a choice of elective modules.
- The Proficiency Award In Cut Flower
Production includes a special project, enabling students to apply their
new skills and knowledge.
Cut flowers are sold all year round. They are sought for many different reasons; use by the hospitality industry, funeral homes, or by those who simply wish to brighten up their home. As with many industries, there will be changing trends and styles which will affect demand and at different times of the year. Growers of flowers will need to be able to understand and determine future trends and requirements and produce crops accordingly.
The Proficiency Award In Cut Flower Production looks at all areas of the production and marketing of a cut flower crop. Students will learn how to cultivate, the requirements of plants and what different things to look for in a cut flower. Through research and application of their skills, students will gain useful practical experience.
COURSE STRUCTURE AND CONTENT
The Proficiency Award In Cut Flower Production has a nominal duration of 500 hours of study. ACS Courses offer students the flexibility to start when they want to and to study at their own pace (perhaps fitting studies around existing work or home commitments). Full support is given to students throughout the period of their study.
The course comprises one Core Module, a Workplace Project, plus two Elective Modules. The course elements are summarised, below. Please click on the module titles to follow the links to more detailed information on each.
Cut Flower Production BHT221
This 10 lesson module aims to provide the student with the knowledge and skills to effectively manage the production of cut flowers. The module provides a broad introduction to the cut flower industry and the lessons include cultivation, nutrition, irrigation and pest management. As well as developing the knowledge to evaluate the requirements for particular flowers, students will learn how to deal with harvests and develop a production plan.
Students are to choose two modules to study from the following options:
Cut Flower Orchids VHT240
Cut Flower Orchids is a 10 lesson module specialising in the identifcation, growing, harvesting and operation of an orchid business. Students will learn about the classification of different plants, as well as the cultivation and propagation of orchids. Greenhouse environments are covered extensively in the module, which is completed with a lesson looking at the marketing of produce and a special project where students will conduct an in-depth study of a selected group of orchids.
Greenhouse Cut Flowers VHT239
By controlling environments, growers can extend the growing periods of flowers and also influence the flowering periods of different plants. This 12 lesson module looks at greenhouse production in detail and includes lessons looking specifically at different types of plants as well as the production of bulbs, corms, tubers, and rhizomes.
Cut Flower Bulbs BHT317
Cut Flower Bulbs is a 10 lesson module focusing specifically on the elements important to the production of bulbs for the cut flower industry. Students will learn the basics of good horticultural management including: soil types, plant nutrition, pest and disease management, environmental management and also the various types of bulbs used for cut flower production, while gaining plenty of practical skills along the way.
To complete this qualification, you are also required to complete a workplace project lasting 200 hours.
There are 4 options available to you to satisfy this requirement. The
options will be different dependent upon whether or not you currently
work within the industry. The project can be work experience, voluntary
experience, a project you carry out, other training you have already
undertaken and there are other options. Don’t worry if you are not sure
how to proceed at this stage, as your tutor will be there to discuss how
to proceed and help you every step of the way.
HOW THE COURSE WORKS
You can start the course at any time.
It is studied by distance learning, so you can study in the comfort of your own home. But this doesn't mean you are all alone in your studies. Our highly qualified and friendly tutors are there to help you every step of the way. If you have any questions at all, they are always happy to help.
Each of the modules mentioned can also be studied as a standalone course if you prefer.
HOW TO GROW CROPS IN A PROTECTIVE STRUCTURE (eg. a Greenhouse)
A major advantage of using a protective structure is that the environment can be controlled to optimise crop production. There are different options to consider when it comes to crop protection structures, such as greenhouses and shade houses. Choosing the correct design for the local climate is important. For example, a greenhouse designed for a cold winter climate is usually not suitable for a warm tropical area where heat build-up is a common problem. Tropical greenhouse structures may have open sides covered in insect mesh, overhead shading to control heat, and they may use evaporative cooling systems. Cooler climate or temperature zone greenhouses may be constructed from twin skin plastic sheeting to retain as much warmth as possible. They may make use of heaters and carbon dioxide enrichment of the air to boost crop growth.
Many crops are grown inside protective structures whether it is hydroponics or in soil. Protective structures can range from disused industrial buildings in the case of urban farms to shade houses and greenhouses.
In any indoor production system there are some environmental factors which need to be manipulated to assure crop production and quality; the atmospheric conditions indoors have a large impact on what will grow, and how much you can produce.
A plant’s ability to photosynthesise is affected by temperature; photosynthesis is the key to seed germination, plant growth, water movement and flower and fruit development.
- Dry air: as atmosphere dries the plant’s transpiration rate increases which accelerates water loss
- Air temperature: As temperatures increase the water holding capacity of the air also increases acutely.
Greenhouses usually require cooling during the summer months. Most locations experience temperatures that are detrimental to plants during summer.
Temperatures inside the greenhouse are often 7 - 15oC higher than outside. Adverse effects on plants from excessive heat include reduction of flower size, flower and fruitlet drop, lack of fruit set, lack of pollen viability, delays in flowering, smaller fruit size, loss in yield, poor product quality, reduced fruit shelf life and firmness and a number of other disorders.
Most plants prefer the air temperature between 15–24°C, but always check the optimum range for the crop being grown as this is essential for maximum yield and growth rates. Temperature optimums range from 16 C for lettuce to 28 C for melons. Most crops need a cooler night temperature for good flowering and fruit set, but the day/night difference varies between crops and manipulation of this can be used to compensate for other growth factors such as low light.
Summer cooling requires large volumes of air be brought into the greenhouse and pass through the entire plant zone. One complete air change per minute is the recommended rate for greenhouse cooling. Cooling will be dependent on outside temperatures and in tropical climates; other forms of cooling may be required to reduce temperatures to acceptable levels.
Root Zone Temperature
Just as in soil, hydroponic growing substrates typically run temperature conditions a few degrees lower than that of the air. However, hydroponic crops are grown in limited volumes of media which has the ability to warm faster than soil and this should be taken into consideration in warm climates where root overheating can cause growth problems. In hydroponic culture systems such as NFT and Aeroponics the nutrient can over heat rapidly during the day and may need some form of cooling. Conversely in winter, solution or root zone heating with a warmed nutrient solution can boost growth, particularly when air temperatures are being run on the cool side. Cool season crops such as lettuce benefit from solution warming in winter, but in tropical climates, solution cooling can mean economic crops of lettuce can be produced at air temperatures much higher than ideal. Root zone temperatures should always be monitored and adjusted for hydroponic crop production.
Relative Humidity and Vapour Pressure Deficit
The amount of moisture held in the air of the growing environment has major effects on many aspects of crop development and disease prevention. Relative humidity (RH) levels are a measure of the amount of moisture currently held in the greenhouse air and are influenced by factors such as the amount of water vapour given off by the plants during transpiration, any misting, fogging or damping down used for temperature control as well as ambient humidity levels in the air brought into the growing area. High RH slows the rate of water loss via transpiration from the plants, thus slowing the transport of water and calcium from the roots to developing plant parts. High humidity also increases the risk of fungal and bacterial pathogen infection, particularly where condensation may wet foliage. Low RH increases the rate of transpiration and foliage desiccation can occur, plants may also wilt during the warmest part of the day.
Greenhouse sensors often measure both RH and the Vapour pressure deficient (VPD) which is more meaningful from a plant growth perspective than RH. VPD is the difference between the amount of moisture in the air and how much moisture the air can hold when saturated. VPD is better than just looking at RH as it takes into account the effect of temperature on the water holding capacity of the air, rather than giving just a relative measure of the water content of the air. VPD gives an absolute measure of how much more water the air can hold, and how close it is to saturation. Higher VPD values means that the air has a higher capacity to hold more water and this stimulates plant transpiration from the leaves. Lower VPD means the air is at or near saturation, so the air cannot take more moisture from the leaf in this high humidity condition. Higher VPD increases the transpiration demand and assists with prevention of conditions such as blossom end rot, fruit cracking and tip burn. VPD in crops such as tomatoes are best run below 0.062 psi (0.43 kPa) for good plant growth, however disease infection is most damaging below 0.030 psi, so greenhouse climates are best adjusted to keep above 0.030 to prevent disease outbreaks.
When the air in the greenhouse becomes fully saturated with moisture this is called the `dew point’ or `saturation vapour pressure’ and this is directly related to temperature. When the dew point is reached, free water forms on the plants and greenhouse structures in the form of condensation which needs to be avoided as it is a major disease risk. At saturation VPD, plants stop transpiring and physiological disorders start occur. The size of the vapour pressure deficit tells a grower how close to saturation and condensation the greenhouse environment is.
CO2 and O2
Carbon dioxide (CO2) and oxygen (O2) are vital gaseous nutrients required for crop growth and deficiencies in either of these will result in yield reductions. CO2 in the atmosphere is around 360ppm however enrichment up to 1000 – 1200ppm in the greenhouse will give yield increases and decrease the time to harvest of many crops. CO2 enrichment of the greenhouse may be used to simply replace the CO2 taken up by the plants, thus preventing CO2 deficiencies (enriching up to ambient levels inside a relatively closed greenhouse) or boosted to levels of over 1000ppm depending on factors such as the requirement for venting, where high CO2 levels can be lost and the cost of enrichment. CO2 deficiency is common in winter greenhouses, usually in the few hours after dawn, when the vents remain closed to retain heat, but the crop, begins active photosynthesis, thus rapidly lowing the CO2 contained in the limited greenhouse environment. Growers should be aware of the need to draw in fresh CO2 supplies, even if this means a loss in greenhouse heat.
Oxygen is required for the process of respiration and while plant leaves have access to more than sufficient O2, plant roots may become deficient in many growing situations. While hydroponics does offer the opportunity for better oxygenation of the root system than soil based systems, root suffocation due to a lack of O2 is common in many densely grown hydroponic crops. Oxygen is only slightly soluble in water or nutrient solution with maximum rates of only 12 – 13 ppm of O2 held at around 10oC, this can be rapidly taken up by an active root system to the point where suffocation and root cell death starts to occur. Hydroponic growing media needs to be porous to allow oxygen penetration and methods used to enrich nutrient solutions with as much dissolved oxygen as possible.
Water is another vital input into all hydroponic systems and its quality must be assessed before use. Water for hydroponic production needs to be low mineral, relatively low sodium, free of disease pathogen spores and organic matter and any other contaminates which may affect plant growth. Many water supplies, both natural and town water supplies are not suitable for hydroponics. Well water may contain disease pathogens and unacceptable levels of certain minerals such as trace elements and sodium. Town water supplies are treated with chemicals to bring this up to drinking standard (such as chlorine), many of which may not be suitable for crop production. Water analysis should be carried out on all potential water supplies for hydroponics and the results assessed accurately for use in hydroponics (as this differs from the standard drinking water interpretation many labs perform). Sodium is the most common problem in water sources as is present in just about all water sources. Sodium sensitive plants such as lettuce should not be grown with a water source that contains any more than 40 ppm sodium, whereas more salt tolerant crops can be produced with higher sodium levels.
Control of the Environment
There is now available on the market computer controlled equipment to manage the greenhouse environment. The computers are capable of delivering a 15 to 25% saving in costs and reduce labour considerably. They are able to control temperature, humidity, light intensity, CO2 injection application of black cloth shade, light reduction as needed, ventilation fans and irrigation. Some of the advantages are:
- Computer controlled environments can control the temperature to within one-tenth of a degree where manual control is at best within 2-3 degrees. They also do the job gently, which puts lesser load on the equipment rather than the abrupt changes from manual operation.
- It works 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It will deliver the most cost-efficient control of your heating/ventilating system every minute of the day and night.
- Most computer systems have inbuilt alarms which notifies the grower of factors such as electricity or pump failures, over heating or other problems which could damage the crop.
Why Study This Course?
If you would like to learn more about cut flowers and become an expert in the production and selection of cut flowers, then this course is the one for you.
- It will enable you to increase our knowledge of selecting the right type of crop.
- You can specialise in the productions of cut flowers that interest you.
- Be an expert for your customers.
- Increase your own job and career prospects or even set up your own business in cut flower production and selling.
The course is studied by distance learning and you can start at any time to suit you.
So why not get started? Why Delay? Enrol Today!
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