British poinsettia growers selected the area of Latina, 80km south of Rome, for this year’s study tour (12th – 14th November 2018). This rural area is a centre for all kinds of horticultural production and its edible and ornamental produce are distributed all over the country and exported to northern Europe.
The province of Lazio is in the coastal region around Rome with a population of 5.9M (of which the city of Rome is about half). Within this province is Latina with half a million inhabitants and around the city of Latina is the heart of Italian horticulture in many forms: vegetables, flowers, fruit, cheese, sugar and ornamental plants, of course.
The Latina area is in some ways reminiscent of Spalding, in that it was a marsh area drained in modern times to make it available for agriculture. Under plans developed by the government in the 1920’s led by Mussolini the land was improved and large scale production opened up to provide jobs and business for a relatively unpopulated area. Over 2000 km of ditches and drains have been built.
Due to the coastal location, the climate avoids extremes of summer temperature with an August average maximum of 31°C and winter minimum around 3°C and relatively high rainfall of 83cm coming mostly in the winter. Even in the winter light levels are naturally high and no assimilation lighting is used, even on young plant production. Poinsettias being finished at this time without heat but they will have to protect the later maturing crops. The day length is very similar to the British at present and the commencement of initiation also similar making the stage of maturity look very familiar to UK growers.
Much of the current horticultural production is under polythene structures with some glass and a large area of outdoor production for ‘Mediterranean plants’. The large companies that the growers visited, some of the 90+ producers in the area, extended to many hectares of covered and uncovered nurseries with a wide range of pot crops focusing on annual plants in the early part of the year followed by large cyclamen and even larger poinsettias. About 17M poinsettias are grown in Italy and a large percentage (3M+) in the Latina area. Many of these plants are large size and so the total turnover in the poinsettia production industry could be as much as €110M. There is some discussion about the European league status of Italy in terms of numbers of plants grown but in relation to the turnover of the trade, they must be second after Germany.