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Stef Veenhof, Könst Alstroemeria

NL: A look behind the scenes at alstroemeria breeder, propagator

The acreage of alstroemeria cultivation is limited in the Netherlands. The same goes for the number of propagators and growers in the market. Over the years, the cultivation of this crop shifted to South America. Therefore, one of the largest players in this crop category, Könst Alstroemeria, also established a company in Colombia, where they breed and propagate the plants for this market. However, this Dutch company still has a breeding and propagation facility in the Netherlands. Let's take a look behind the scenes.

Stef Veenhof with the Jumbo, the new breed well-appreciated by Keukenhof visitors.

"Breeding takes an average of 6 to 8 years. This is not uncommon in other crops, but with a chrysanthemum, for example, you know what it’s going to do in about 60 days. In an alstroemeria this takes several years," according to Stef Veenhof, Könst’s South American market representative. "It’s also important that a plant continues to produce good quality shoots to last at least 3 to 4 years. This is a big challenge because although there are breeders who stick with it longer, you actually already see a decrease in stem thickness, and the amount and size of the flowers after two years."

In the propagation lab

Production shift
The acreage significantly decreased in the Netherlands in recent years, from about 120 hectares fifteen years ago to 40 today. At the same time, the focus of production gradually shifted to other parts of the world, especially to South America. "This has everything to do with growing conditions and production costs. Just like with the rose in Africa; circumstances are ideal in countries on the equator. We set up the breeding and propagation company ‘Flores la Serena’ in Colombia a couple of years ago. The nursery is located at an altitude of 2600 meters, not far from Colombia’s capital Bogota. From here we serve our customers in this region.”

In 2014 the total alstroemeria acreage worldwide was distributed as follows: Europe 80 ha, South America 420 ha, Asia 56 ha and 22 ha in Kenya.

The most important factor for the successful cultivation of alstroemeria is the ground temperature. The rhizome, the rootstock, will benefit from coolness: if the soil is cool, around 14°C, then this results in high-quality flowers. A higher soil temperature increases production but also suppresses flower formation, resulting in a lot of empty branches. For the alstroemeria, cultivation areas around the equator are ideal, mainly because of the cool nights and high light intensity. No wonder half of the total acreage of alstroemeria is located in Colombia.

Propagation and extensive testing on location

Starting material
A grower who dedicates himself to the alstroemeria has to have deep pockets. The price of a plant is high because of the long breeding process and because the propagation of cuttings is labor intensive. The cuttings are propagated in a laboratory to ensure virus-free, authentic material. After this the plants have to be hardened off and then potted, which costs an additional 16 weeks.

On the other hand, a grower needs few plants per m2 - an average of 3 depending on the cultivation conditions. And there’s a significant production of shoots per square meter during several years - an average of about 300. "In the Netherlands we achieve productions of about 500 stems. In foreign countries, where growing techniques are often less developed for a variety of reasons, the yield is often between 150 and 200 per m2. Incidentally, the yield is the highest during the summer in the Netherlands, simply because there is more light then. This is detrimental to the pricing. It invariably plummets." The average price per stem hovers just under 20 cents.

The Scorpion, a breed that for a long time was in great demand in Japan

A lot is happening in terms of development. Könst and its competing colleagues regularly present new breeds, colors and shapes. Currently, the development of the so-called cluster alstroemerias is especially exciting. "Soon a product group may be added at Royal FloraHolland specifically intended to promote this crop. Because it’s really a different flower with a different decorative value, which we from Könst, but also other parties and breeders, can see the value of. But this is all still under development. It remains to be seen how this will turn out."

For more information:
Könst Alstroemeria
Stef Veenhof
Nieuwveens Jaagpad 93
2441GA Nieuwveen
M: +31 63 03 73 379
T: +31 17 25 39 925

Publication date: 6/10/2016



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