Tulips were considered a refreshing reminder to people that summer has come. By creating optimum growing conditions inside a controlled environment hydroponic farm, growers can grow tulip out of season (in summers), fulfilling the customer's desire for color at the starting of the summer season.
Tulip ranks first in the world among bulbous ornamental crops, consisting of more than 150 species. All these species are different in their shape, color, size, and flowering time.
Because of tulip's ability to grow well under hydroponic conditions, it is considered a profitable crop by the cut flower growers. Today we will discuss the growing methods, optimum growing environment, planting process, nutrient management, and harvesting of tulip.
In hydroponics, the tulips are commonly grown in crates containing reusable water trays. Two types of water tray used to grow tulip- the prong type and the egg crate type.
Both types of water trays differ in their usability. The egg crate type holds a particular size of a tulip bulb, whereas the prong type water tray can hold bulbs of different sizes.
The selection of a desirable bulb is a crucial part of hydroponic tulip production. Bulb size of 12 cm (the circumference at the middle height of the bulb in a horizontal plane) or more is ideal for tulip production. If the bulb size is less than 12 cm, then the quality of the flower produced will be reduced (smaller flower and shorter stem).
Optimum Conditions for Quality Production
Care of Bulbs before planting them in trays:
The tulip bulb has an annual replacement cycle, divided into three main periods- root growth period, floral bud elongation period, and senesce period.
The tulip bulbs used in hydroponics are of two types:
· Pre-cooled Bulbs: These bulbs are spring-flowering bulbs that are stored dry at a temperature between 2 °C to 9 °C after floral initiation and development but before planting.
· Non-precooled Bulbs: Before planting, these bulbs kept at a temperature between 15 °C to 17 °C(non-chilling temperature).
After planting pre-cooled bulbs in hydroponic trays, they are placed into a cooler for 10-20 days at a temperature between 4 °C to 6 °C, depending on the cultivar.
This process allows rooting in the bulb before placing them for forcing. The water level should only touch the bottom of the bulb to initiate rooting. For better rooting, dilute calcium nitrate solution is added to hydroponic trays.
The tulip needs 21-28 days to complete rooting, but a longer rooting period reduces the overall quality of the flower. The reasons for reduced flower quality are:
· It gets difficult to harvest the crop when the roots are longer as they get entangled with the roots of other plants.
· It makes the plant more susceptible to diseases as more extended roots cause quick oxygen depletion in the solution.
Maturity Period and Nutrient Management of Tulip
Temperature is the most significant factor among various environmental factors that affect the growth of the tulip plant. The temperature must be maintained between 12 °C to 16 °C to get the best tulip plant.
No artificial lights are required because tulip grows well in normal light levels under the optimum temperature, and it takes around 28 to 42 days to bloom after placing the tulip bulbs in water trays.
Similar to any other cut-flower crop, proper nutrient management is crucial in tulip production. Tulips bulbs have a characteristic of storing nutrients for the initial growth of the plant.
The nutrient delivery should begin after shoot emergence but make sure to provide only the adequate amount of nutrients as excessive nutrients can reduce the plant height.
Harvesting of Tulip Plant
The harvesting process begins when the petals start to show color but are still not completely open. In hydroponics, the tulips are cut from the stem and stored inside the cold storage facility.
The tulip demand and production both are increasing at a fast pace. The hydroponic production technique can be a profitable option for growers and to satisfy the world's demand for these beautiful flowers. Also, the growers having a smaller area can grow tulip in a few trays to meet their local market demand.
Tulip production has many opportunities for growers in India who are focused on quality rather than quantity.