In recent times revolutionary changes are seen in the floriculture industry. One component contributing for this revolution is dried flower industry. Fresh flowers are short-lived and available only during a particular season. Huge number of fresh flowers is also wasted due to lack of proper marketing channel and some unavoidable circumstances during blooming season. Some flowers were identified which could be easily dried, preserved and processed in nature. Dehydrated flowers and foliage are excellent due to their special beauty, long lasting value and can be enjoyed during heat of summer and the cold of winter and people developed the concept of enjoying the beauty and value of dried flowers. The charm of flowers can be maintained and preserved for several years by the technique of dehydration or drying. Such dried flowers become free from the bondage of seasons. By drying, the microbial activity the aging effect comes to a standstill in the absence of moisture. Thus, such dried flowers and leaves can be stored in dry atmosphere for a very long period without losing their appearance and decorative value.
Dry flower industry was brought to India by the British and prospered in Calcutta, because of its proximity to the north-eastern region where diverse flowers are naturally available in abundance. Tuticorin is another place, which boasts of dry flower industry. In today’s time, there are various companies working behind efficient management of dry flowers. To remain updated about the latest technologies and best practices in floriculture, stakeholders should attend industrial exhibitions and seminars where all those companies demonstrate their technologies to the world.
WHAT IS DRY FLOWER:
The flowers are near to naturally dried, preserved and processed, retaining the original beauty as ever lasting value. In dry flowers the microbial activity, the aging effect come to stand still in the absence of moisture, can be stored in dry atmosphere for long period without losing their appearance and decorative value in terms of colour and beauty.
WHY DRY FLOWERS:
Dried flowers and plant materials provide distinctive indoor decoration. Arrangements made from dried materials are long lasting and require little care. Drying flowers and foliage expands gardening activities without previous experience and it is inexpensive.
ADVANTAGES OF DRY FLOWERS:
- Dry flowers are cheaper being long life.
- Range of products from dry flowers are many i.e. posters, cards, potpourri
- Dry flowers wastes are biodegradable and eco-friendly.
- Raw material is cheap and available year-round.
- For export, phyto-sanitory certificate, quarantine measures etc are not required.
- Transport can be easily by surface and reducing the transport cost.
- Not dependable on weather or season and once the arrangement is done, no alteration required.
METHODS OF DEHYDRATION:
Dehydration means to dry something under artificially produced heat and controlled temperature, humidity and air-flow. Dehydration (removal of moisture) of flowers and foliage is done by different methods at different places.
(A) AIR DRYING OR HANG DRYING:
This is simple and cheap method of dehydration. Flowers are dried under natural conditions. Flowers are kept in hanging positions simply hung upside down either in dark or in sun. Flowers may also be spread over blotting sheets/newspapers and kept in dark or under sun. Drying process can take 2 to 3 weeks depending upon atmospheric. The main drawback of the method is that it is weather dependent and quality of the product is not good.
(B) PRESS DRYING:
Press drying is one of the most common methods for drying flowers and foliage. Original shape of the material cannot be maintained but the original colour is retained. Press dried materials may be used for preparation of greeting cards, wall plates, table tops and for designing landscapes for interior decoration. Generally foliage would dry within 1-2 weeks and flowers in 2-4 weeks.
Flowers suitable for pressing: Ageratum, Alyssum, Anemone, Azalea, Bleeding heart, Buttercup, Butterfly weed, bachelor’s button, Candytuft, Celosia, cockscomb, Chrysanthemum, Columbine, Cornflower, Cosmos, Crocus, Daffodil, Daisy, Delphinium, Dutchman’s breeches, Geranium, Golden red, Heath, Heather, Hydrangea, Johnny-jump-up, Larkspur, Lily-of-the-valley, Marigold, Nemesia, Pansy, Phlox, Primula, Queen Anne’s lace, Rose, Salvia, Statice, Sweet pea, Verbena, Zinnia
(D) FREEZE DRYING:
Freezing drying is removal of water in the form of vapours by heating the frozen water (ice) under high vacuum. Plant materials are frozen under vacuum, so that free water stage is sublimed to ice and then to water vapour. Further water vapour is removed by water trap. This method is not commercially used because of high cost of equipment and relative low market value for the dried plant products.
(E) EMBEDDING AND DRYING:
To avoid shrinkage and other morphological changes in dehydrated materials due to air drying, the flowers and foliage are embedded very carefully in drying suitable materials either in sand or silica gel in a container. The original shape of the flower is maintained by this process. For embedding drying used media are desiccant agent like saw dust, perlite, kitty’s litter, sand, alum, cornmeal, borax, silica gel, or their mixtures in different proportions etc. Containers mostly used for embedding, are dust-bins, desk trays, earthen pots, etc. Size of container depends upon the size of material to be embedded, oven and microwave.
(a) Room Drying/Shade drying: Container may be kept at room temperature in a well ventilated room till the plant materials are dried properly. Solar energy is also used for drying. Duration of drying is 5-10 days. Method is simple and inexpensive as no equipment is used. Petals do not shrink because of embedding. But this method depends upon weather conditions and time consuming.
(b) Sun Drying: Containers are shifted under a roof during the evening and again brought to sun in the morning. Duration of drying is 3 – 5 days. Dehydration is faster, hence, is quick and cheap. But this method is also weather dependent. Quality of the product is affected due to change in day and night temperatures and extra labour is required for shifting of the container. Flowers like zinnia, marigolds, pansies and pompon, chrysanthemum, gomphrena, etc.
(c) Oven Drying: Work on this method was carried out at NBRI, Lucknow since 1966. Containers consisting or embedded flowers and foliage are kept in the electrically operated hot-air oven at a controlled temperature for a specific period. Drying time required is 24 – 72 hours and temperature range is 35-48°C. Drying is faster and quality of the product is very good. Weather does not have any effect, but, expensive than above methods. The flowers like Paper, Chrysanthemum, Candytuft, Gerbera, Gomphrena, Annual or China aster, Rose (buds and small flowers), Rose (medium & large flowers), Rose (very large flowers), Zinnia, Bougainvillea, Dahlia, Gladiolus, French Marigold, African Marigold, Nymphaea water lily, Cassia biflora, Calliandra, Thuja, Ferns, etc.
(d) Vacuum Drying: Embedded material may be dehydrated under vacuum. Vacuum is created under thick walled chamber fitted with a heating device, a vacuum pump for maintaining a high vacuum and a condenser for condensing the liberated moisture in the drying compartment. Low temperature is used in this equipment for drying. System is very effective and the quality of the product is excellent but the process is expensive due to costlier equipment.
(e) Microwave Oven Drying: It is based on the principle of liberating moisture by agitating water molecules in organic substances with the help of electronically produced micro-waves. Plant materials dried are superior over hot-air oven dried plant material with respect to color, shape and texture. Flowers or foliage are embedded in fine silica gel in non-metallic earthen or glass containers and kept in the microwave oven for a few minutes. Drying times vary from about 3 minutes for very dense flowers with a lot of petals to about 1 minute for smaller or thinner-petaled flowers. Material after taking out from microwave oven is kept outside in dry atmosphere for a specific setting time, so moisture of the container gets evaporated and the plant material gets fully dried. This process is called “setting time”. Setting time varies from material to material. Time required for dehydration in microwave oven varies from 1-4 minutes and the setting time 2-5 hours. The method is fastest among all and quality of product is also excellent, but initial cost of the equipment is very high. Flowers like Snapdragon, China aster, Chrysantemum, Compretum comosum, Dahlia, Sandpaper vine, Gul Mohur, Carnation, Bougainvillea, Gerbera, Gladiolus, Ixora, Pride of India, Water lily, lavender, Carnation, Dutch iris, Tulip, Rose,large, etc. are suitable for this method.
(f) Use of Desiccants (Drying Agents): This method is suitable for most flowers and foliages, except for very fleshy things such as succulents. And the method is best all-around drying methods. Flowers dried in a drying agent retain their color and shape better than other drying methods. Several types of desiccants available for drying flowers and foliage i.e. silica gel (not really a gel – it is fine crystals), silver sand, cornmeal, borax, kitty litter, saw dust, etc. If you leave the flower buried too long, the drying agent can burn the petals.
FEATURES OF THE DRY FLOWER INDUSTRY:
This industry is labour Intensive, hence, job opportunities for thousands of workers. Self employment and women employment as establishing unit for dried flowers is not a costly affair and a good profit margin is also obtained. Subsidiary industries can be associated. Floral craft prepared from dried flowers has a great demand throughout the world.
INDIAN EXPORT SCENARIO AND SCOPE:
- Dried flower industry was brought to India by British and prospered in Calcutta because of its proximity to North East where diverse blooms are available in abundance.
- In India very little importance was given to this industry which has tremendous export potential. About 60 % of the total export of floricultural products is of dry flowers.
- Today our country has 15 big exporters with a turnover of Rs.75 crore business employing nearly one lakh people.
- India has a share of 10 % of the total global dry flower market.
- Europe is biggest market of floricultural products.
- Indian dry flower exports more than 10,000 tonnes/annually from India.
- The dried flowers are exported to US, Israel, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and West European countries.
- K. is the largest importer of dried flower from India next to Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain.
- Exported include lotus pods and others like camellias, dahlia, bell cups, marigold, jute flowers, wood roses and wild lilies, etc.
- Tuticorn is an ideal location since the climate is dry for the best part of the year and with little agricultural activity in the semi-arid region unskilled labour comes cheap.
- The flowers required for the industry mainly comes from Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Sikkim, West Bengal and Kashmir.
IMMEDIATE NEED AND PROBLEMS TO BE ADDRESSED:
- Know-how and training for the people to understand the concept and product range.
- Market survey and information on demand in domestic and international market
- Introduction of suitable new popular flowers for international market
- Standardization of packing technology for dry flowers to meet international requirements.
- Good international connections through seaports and airports.
- Government incentives and help for the export.
Beauty and charm of fresh flowers can be retained only for a few days even by using some preservatives where dehydration of flower may play significant role. Dehydrated flowers, ferns, leaves, grasses, mosses, berries, seed pods, plant portions etc., are good decorative items and which can be effectively utilized for making decorative floral craft items for interior decoration and commercial exploitation such as greeting cards, for arrangements in sealed glass/plastic containers, flower-vase, potpourri, wreaths and bow etc. Export demand of some precious flowers like gerbera, carnation, anthurium, rose (which are generally produced by protective cultivation) decreases, at this time dehydration of flowers can provide alternative for floriculture business.
The above described Dehydration Techniques are currently practiced by a number of companies who also showcase them on various platforms like industrial events and seminars. To have a deeper insight into the floriculture technologies, visit such industrial exhibitions which provide a platform for bringing together many foreign as well as national visitors to interact with the leading international floriculture technology companies, who exhibit their latest technologies and know-hows for the industry.
Barad, A. V.1 ; Nilima Bhosale2 and Pooja Maheta3
College of Agriculture, Junagadh Agricultural University,
Junagadh – 362001 (Gujarat). Email. email@example.com