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UCCE helps bromeliad growers comply with regulations

The Issue

Ethylene, a gas found in nature and commonly used to ripen bananas and other fruit, can uniformly induce synchronous flowering in bromeliads. Synchronous flowering is key to marketing bromeliads. However, the EPA considers the gas a pesticide when used in this manner, and there are no registered uses of ethylene as a pesticide. Growers were unaware of that fact, but were told by county regulators they would have to stop using ethylene gas until it was registered. This would have caused a severe economic impact on some of the largest bromeliad growers. Synthetic chemicals are registered to induce flowering in bromeliads, but they are toxic, can cause phytotoxicity and cause asynchronous flowering.

What Has ANR Done?

UCCE San Diego research produced evidence of ethylene's efficacy in comparison to the toxic chemicals presently registered for bromeliad flower induction. UCCE San Diego compiled evidence of the innocuous nature of ethylene gas, relevant research and other relevant data into a full registration packet. In addition, data was collected from local growers on the best method of applying ethylene. Based on the data, we wrote a formal label for ethylene use that could be included with the tanks of ethylene compressed gas. This information was given to the cooperating specialty gas company that filed the official registration request.

The Payoff

Ethylene approved for bromeliads

The written label, the full packet presented to the cooperating specialty gas company, and support letters quickened the registration process. California Department of Pesticide Regulation approved the registration and official label for ethylene use in bromeliad flower induction. By interceding, UCCE enabled growers to use ethylene. Ornamental producers across the country, including Florida which has large production, now have a registered label for ethylene.

Clientele Testimonial

"The lack of ethylene would result in an annual loss of more than $7 million. We could not operate as a business without it." - Kent's Bromeliads, largest bromeliad grower in California. "Ethylene saved our bromeliad program, which is annually about $4 million of our business." - Olive Hill Greenhouses, Inc., second largest in California.


Supporting Unit:

James A. Bethke, Floriculture and Nursery Farm Advisor, UC Cooperative Extension, San Diego County Valerie Mellano, Environmental issues Advisor, UC Cooperative Extension, San Diego County
James A. Bethke, (760) 752-4715, cell (951)775-7172, jabethke@ucdavis.edu