Gerbera is commonly known as Transvaal daisy or Bar berton daisy or African daisy. It is an important commercial cut flower crop. Gerbera flowers have a wide range of colours including yellow, orange, cream-white, pink, brick red, red, terracotta and various other intermediate colors. In double varieties, bicolor flowers are also available. Gerbera flower stalks are long, thin and leafy and have a long vase life.
Bright sunshine accelerates the growth and quality of the flowers, however, in summer this flower needs diffused sunlight. Gerbera plants grown in locations with insufficient light will not bloom well. The optimum day and night temperature is 27oC and 14oC respectively. For flower initiation, the optimum temperature is 23oC and for leaf unfolding it is 25 - 27oC.
There are two primary factors to be considered while selecting soil for Gerbera cultivation.
Red lateritic soils are good for Gerbera cultivation as it is having all the essential qualities that an ideal soil should have.
In general, Gerberas are grown on raised beds to assist in easier movement and better drainage. The dimensions of the bed should be as follows:
The beds for planting should be highly porous, well drained and airy. Gravel/sand can be added at the bottom for better drainage. Organic manure is recommended to improve soil texture and to provide nutrition gradually. The soil should be loose all the time. Organic manure and soil should be mixed thoroughly for optimum results. The soil should not be very compact after watering. The upper layer of soil and FYM should be properly mixed. While bed preparation, add Single Super Phosphate (0:16:0) @ 2.5 kg per 100 sqft for better root establishment and Magnesium Sulphate @ 0.5 kg per 100 sqft to take care of deficiency of Mg. Neem cake (@ 1 kg / m) is also added for prevention of nematode infestation.
Soil sterilization is required before gerbera plantation to manage Phytophthora infestation. There are three main soil sterilization methods available.
Apply this solution evenly on soil beds. Use one liter of mix solution ( Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) with silver + water) For the one-meter area. After that in 4 to 6 hours the crop can be planted.
Gerbera is propagated by seed, by cuttings of side shoots and suckers.
Seeds : Seed is set if cross-pollinated. Sowing of seed may be done in almost any season. Seeds germinate in 15 to 20oC within two weeks; otherwise it may take up to 30 days. Plants from seeds will bloom in the second year and produce good flowers from the third year onwards.
Vegetative : Side shoots, with some amount of heel, is utilized for. Divisions/ suckers, cuttings are also used.
Micro propagation : The plant parts used as explants for micro propagation are Shoot tips, Leaf mid-rib, Capitulum, Flower heads, Inflorescence and Buds. Murashige and Skoog (MS) media with modification is successfully used as culture media.
Important cultivars of Gerbera : Pre Intenzz, Stanza, Winter Queen, Cacharelle, Jaffa, Sangria, Diana, Thalsa, Sonsara, Paganini, Anneke, Nette, Rosetta, Gloria, Ginna, Ingrid, Pricilla, Alexias, Intense, Sunway, Zingaro, Balance,rosaline,dune and Monique.
Plant should not be less than three months old. At the time of planting the tissue culture, plant should have atleast 4 to 5 leaves. Gerberas are planted on raised bed in two rows formation. Zigzag plantation system is mostly preferred. While planting 65% portion of root ball should be kept below ground and rest of the portion i.e. 35% should be kept above the ground for better air circulation in the root zones.
Ideal planting density and spacing: 8-10 plants/sqm or 30 X 30 cm or 40 x 25 cm.
Irrigate and fertilize frequently in small quantities for optimum results. Always analyze the soil once in 2 - 3 months to decide specific nutrient schedule.
25 - 75 t/ha of well decomposed organic manure is required. For the first three months after planting, application of 20:20:20:N:P:K @ 1.5 g/l of water every two days during the vegetative stage encourages better foliage.
Once flowering commences, N:P:K 15:8:35 at the rate of 1.5 g/l water/day is to be given. Micronutrients should be given weekly or fortnightly as per the deficiency symptoms (preferably chelated source). Boron deficiency causes base of young leaves to turn black coloured. Zinc deficiency symptoms can be identified with the C-shaped leaf structure caused by chlorosis on one half of the leaf blade which ceases to expand, while the other half of the leaf is normal.
Weeding an raking of soil:
Weeds take the nutrients of the plants and affect the production. Hence, they should be removed from the bed. Due to daily irrigation, the surface of the gerbera bed becomes hard hence raking of soil is done with the help of a raker. It increases soil aeration in the root zone of the plant. This operation should be done regularly, may be twice in a month.
Removal of inferior quality flowers at the initial stage after plantation is called disbudding. The normal production of gerbera plants starts after 75 - 90 days from the date of plantation. Production of flowers starts 45 days after plantation but initial production is of inferior quality, hence these flowers should be removed from the base of the flowers stalk. this helps in making the plant strong and healthy.
Removal of old leaves:
Sanitation helps in keeping the disease and pest infestation below the economic threshold level. The old, dry, infested leaves should be removed from the plant and removed from the production site.
Important Diseases : Root rot (Pythium irregularae, Rhizoctonia solani) ; Foot rot ( Phytophthora cryptogea) ; Sclerotium rot (Sclerotium rolfsii) ; Blight ( Botrytis cinerea) ; Powdery mildew ( Erysiphe cichoracearum, Oidium crysiphoides ) ; Leaf spots ( Phyllosticta gerberae, Alternaria spp.)
Viral disease (Cucumber mosaic virus and Tobacco rattle virus)
Insect-pests: White fly ; Red Spider Mites ; Nematodes ; Aphids ; Leaf miner ; Caterpillars
The first flowers may be harvested after 75 - 90 days after planting. Flowers of most of the varieties (single types) are ready to be picked when 2 - 3 whirls of stamens have entirely been developed. Some varieties are picked little riper, especially the double types. the good flower has stalk length of 45-55cm, and diameter of the flower is 10 - 12cm.
Morning or evening is best time for gerbera flower harvesting .Skilled labours are required for harvesting of gerbera cut flowers. After harvesting the flowers should be kept in a bucket containing clean water. Flowers are very delicate hence they should be carefully handled otherwise can be damaged and their quality gets deteriorated. For harvesting gerbera no secateurs are required and are done by naked hands.