Dümmen Orange and IribovSBW have developed a method that can speed up the propagation of tulip bulbs enormously. The use of tissue culture is a crucial element. The breeding process can now be shortened from 20 years to 6-7 years.
Thanks to the tissue culture phase of the new propagation method, a bulb can deliver thousands of descendants in one year. With the traditional propagation of tulips in the ground, the propagation factor is normally around three. Breeder/propagator Dümmen Orange and tissue culture specialist IribovSBW have worked very hard the past two years, to develop the new propagation method using five tulip cultivars. They were successful with all five, but there were differences between the cultivars with regards to the number of growing points a bulb could induce in 6-7 months’ time. The subsequent growth of those growing points into new bulbs, also a lab phase of several months, differed too. The tissue culture bulbs were grown to the size required for flowering in the ground, following the traditional method – planted in autumn and harvested the following spring. In the future, perhaps one traditional cultivation round will suffice. On the other hand, it might be more efficient to use two traditional cultivation rounds. The new propagation method isn’t patented, but it is secret for third parties.
The bulbs that were developed using the new method flowered in spring 2018 in an outdoor field near the Hobaho Test Centre for ornamental plants in Lisse. At that time, Dümmen Orange and IribovSBW didn’t want to share the news yet. They first wanted to process everything, including the harvest of that field of flowering tulips. All data is now processed. IribovSBW is working on the optimization and implementation of the new technique, to make it suitable for commercial application. Hobaho, part of Dümmen Orange, has selected additional tulip cultivars for further testing.
From 20 to 6-7 years
Hans van den Heuvel, Managing Director R&D Dümmen Orange: “Now that the breeding process of tulips from the moment of crossing to the delivery of a commercial bag of bulbs no longer lasts 20 years, but only 6-7, we’ll be able to respond more effectively to the changing demand of consumers and the market, just like for other ornamental plants. We’ll also be able to test seedlings faster on resistance and their cultivation and forcing qualities. The technique fits in well with our innovation plans for tulip. In September, we’ll use a number of varieties to test flowering induction in tulips and very early stage screening for diseases such as TVX, fusarium and TBV.
Eloy Boon, founder and CEO of IribovSBW, says that he’s proud of these first results of their research programme of crops that are hard to propagate. “Thanks to the interactive collaboration with Dümmen Orange, it’s all gone extremely fast with tulip.” According to Foeke Gardenier, general director of Hobaho, “the sector urgently needs a fast introduction of new cultivars with a unique ornamental and cultivation value and qualities promoting a sustainable cultivation.”