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Enhancing the sustainability of cut flower packaging MRes

   School of Water, Energy and Environment (SWEE)

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  Dr N Girkin  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

Bedford United Kingdom Agricultural Sciences Bioinformatics Cell Biology Ecology Environmental Biology Genetic Engineering Genetics Genomics Microbiology Molecular Genetics

About the Project

This MSc by Research is funded by Arena Flowers (£18,000 bursary + fees for a year) and represents an exciting opportunity to make an impact towards sustainability of the cut-flower industry. The UK ornamental plants and flowers industry was worth £1.4 billion in 2020. Maintaining flower shelf-life and quality is the main challenge for the industry especially at peak seasons. This may be achieved through manipulating storage and development of best management practices. This project will address this challenge, identifying novel opportunities for enhancing cut-flower shelf-life, contributing to improving the sustainability of the industry.

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.

Entry requirements

Applicants should have a minimum first or second class UK degree or equivalent in a relevant discipline, such as biology, chemistry, food sciences, or environmental sciences.

How to apply

For further information please contact:

Dr Nick Girkin [Email Address Removed]

Dr Carol Verheecke-Vaessen [Email Address Removed]

Dr M Carmen Alamar [Email Address Removed]

If you are eligible to apply for this studentship, please complete the online application form stating ref no. SWEE0169

Funding Notes

Sponsored by Arena Flowers, this fully funded studentship will provide a bursary of up to £18,000 (tax free) plus fees for one year.
*To be eligible for this funding, applicants must be a UK national.
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