Enhancing the sustainability of cut flower packaging MRes

Updated: 4 months ago
Location: Cranfield, ENGLAND

In the UK, ornamental plants and flowers represents an industry worth £1.4 billion in 2020 (DEFRA, 2021). Maintaining flower shelf-life and quality is the main challenge for the industry, especially at peak seasons including Valentines and Mother’s Day. Increasing shelf-life while maintaining quality would reduce the timing constraints of the supply chain and increase customer satisfaction, especially at peak seasons.

Shelf-life is dependent on: (1) plant species (which is determined largely by consumer demand); (2) the packaging material; (3) the nutrient solution for feeding the cut stems; and (4) the packing environment. If these parameters are not well managed, discoloration or browning, tissue softening, surface dehydration, off-odours, water losses and microbial spoilage may occur (Macnish et al., 1999; Redman et al., 2002). Nutrient solutions sustain the plant, and are either applied directly to stems, or else to a packaging material that surrounds the cut stem. Manipulating either the material or the solution may offer a way to maintain cut flower quality, but few studies have investigated either. The aim of this project is therefore to identify points of failure in current practices, and subsequently assess and optimise the best storage practices that enhance cut flower shelf-life without loss of quality.

In this project you will test for points of failure in current practices, identifying changes in quality over time and assessing underling drivers in terms of nutrient solution chemistry. You will then test a range of alternative storage materials, primarily focussing on alternative nutrient solution concentrations and compositions, and novel sustainable packaging materials. 

You will receive training in a range of laboratory techniques, experimental design, data analysis, and a range transferable skills (e.g. report preparation, presenting to industry). There will be opportunities to present findings at conferences, and to undertake site visits with the project partner. This MRes project will help prepare you for a career in research, industry, or in undertaking future studies at a PhD level.

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