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Horticulture Students Prepare for Holidays Early
Minnesota Ag Connection - 12/06/2017

There were 635 rooted poinsettia cuttings that arrived in August at the University of Minnesota Crookston in anticipation of another holiday season. Under the skill and coaxing of students involved in the commercial floriculture class, those cuttings develop into a beautiful poinsettia poinsettias with studentscrop.

This year's poinsettias create a beautiful and colorful display with their showy "flowers" known as bracts and include varieties such as Autumn Leaves, Cortez Burgundy, Enduring Pink, Polar Bear, Winter Rose Early Red, Christmas Wish, Christmas Beauty Marble, Euphorbia Luv U Hot Pink, Gold Rush, Orange Spice, and Ruby Frost.

Members of the fall semester class include: Caleb Rempel, a senior majoring in agronomy and horticulture from Mountain Lake, Minn; Jace Rau, a junior majoring in horticulture from Grand Forks, North Dakota.; Jacoby McConkey a sophmore majoring in horticulture from Sauk Rapids, Minn.; and Matthew Patrick, a senior majoring in horticulture, management, and music from Farmington, Minn.

In October, students started the process of forcing the plants to induce bract color in time for the holiday season in December. Following a specific procedure to control the light, the students covered the plants with a dark cloth at 4 p.m. and uncovered them at 8 a.m. each day to regulate the length of daylight the plants receive. The students are responsible for greenhouse chores on the weekends as well. Although the class is taught by Rick Abrahamson, the crop is in the hands of the students. The work and production of the poinsettia crop is entirely the responsibility of the class. Abrahamson says, "our goal is to give the students as much hands-on experience as possible, they make cropping decisions and get to see the results."

The Agriculture and Natural Resources Department offers commercial floriculture as part of the horticulture program to teach students to produce quality plants for a specific date - a skill necessary for employment in a greenhouse or garden center. "The colorful portion of poinsettias are actually modified leaves called bracts. If you look closely in the center of these bracts you will see the small petal-less flowers. Poinsettias are short day plants, meaning they initiate flowering when the day length is less than twelve hours. The length of the day can be manipulated to ensure that the crop blooms at the desired time. Poinsettias will bloom anytime of the year if given short days. Our crop was given short days during the first week of October."

Abrahamson often allows problems to develop to see how the students will solve them--something they would have to do in an employment situation and giving them an opportunity to apply what they have learned. The class demands hard work, dedication, and a strong team effort to grow the best poinsettias. Leadership, responsibility and strong problem solving skills are three of the qualities that develop in this type of teaching and learning environment.

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