Yunlin research center bolsters Taiwan’s floriculture industry

Taiwan’s Yunlin County Floriculture Research Center showcases one-of-a-kind orchid

Floriculture Research Center in western Taiwan’s Yunlin County (Taiwan Today photo)

Floriculture Research Center in western Taiwan’s Yunlin County (Taiwan Today photo)

Phalaenopsis Kenneth Schubert Tari-12 is found in only one place in the world: the Floriculture Research Center in western Taiwan’s Yunlin County. Featuring delicate petals patterned in pink, red and white, the hybrid orchid is among several experimental strains set for possible commercial cultivation in around three years’ time.

Established by Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute under the Cabinet-level Council of Agriculture, FRC opened its doors in 2001. The center hosts laboratories, greenhouses and net houses, aviary-like plots of cultivated land protected by giant meshes, where new varieties of plants are developed and reproduced at scale through tissue culture.

Phalaenopsis Kenneth Schubert Tari-12 already has one avowed fan: Nuttha Potapohn, part of a recent six-member study group to the center from Thailand. “I am very impressed,” she said. “It has clusters of smaller blooms and a very nice color and fragrance.”

The Phalaenopsis Kenneth Schubert Tari-12 orchid carries a light, sweet scent. (Courtesy of FRC)

FRC Director Hsieh Ting-fang said the research facility is experimenting with creating flowers—especially orchids—that demonstrate better disease resistance and drought tolerance, are easy to grow and have longer-lasting blooms in new colors, shapes and sizes. The center also cooperates closely with farmers and holds exchange activities, seminars and training programs.

“Our work addresses industry needs and problems through scientific and technological research,” Hsieh said, adding that Taiwan can help farmers consolidate competitive positions in the international market.

Rows of neatly labeled glassware, each housing a tiny seedling, line benches in the FRC’s bright laboratories. Outside, in the green and net houses, flowers form blankets of color—yellow, blushing pink, cream and speckled purple. With the flower industry big business in Taiwan, the center takes its task to produce better and more beautiful blooms seriously.

FRC researchers are hard at work producing new flower varieties for commercial production. (Taiwan Today photo)

R&D is focused on species that are seeing stronger domestic and foreign demand. These are orchids, mainly moth orchids—named for their lepidopteran-shaped floral sprays—and Oncidium orchids, known as dancing ladies, as well as the shiny leaved anthuriums. Orchids are popular because they come in many different colors, are easy to care for and flower for several months at a time.

FRC has developed more than 20 new commercial varieties to date. One of the more successful is the Tainung No. 4 Snow White orchid, finalized in 2011, and today grown and sold by about 100 local farmers. The flower is a favorite in Japan, where white varieties are especially popular.

FRC’s world-class facilities may soon be helping growers beyond Taiwan’s borders, too. Potapohn, who works as coordinator for Thailand’s Royal Project Foundation’s flower farming projects, said she hoped they could come back to study some of the techniques on show in Yunlin.

“We need to learn about biotechnological applications to improve the quality of our stock and yields,” she said, while gazing admiringly upon a photograph of the Phalaenopsis Kenneth Schubert Tari-12. (E) By Kelly Her

The Tainung No. 4 Snow White orchid, created in 2011, is cultivated and sold by about 100 local farmers. (Courtesy of FRC)