|16.3 Living plants|
|Characteristics and fitness for container transport
Living plants which are transported comprise trees (including Christmas trees), shrubs, rose bushes, tree scions, seedlings, flower bulbs, herbaceous perennials and pot plants. Living plants can be transported loose with or without a root ball. They are often grouped together in bunches, bags and cases. Depending on their size, they are packaged in root ball cloths of jute or perforated plastic film.
Living plants exhibit high, 1st order biotic activity (BA 1). They are organisms with a fully maintained, autonomous metabolism, the viability of which must be retained during transport, handling and storage operations. Living plants have high water contents of at least > 30% and thus belong in water content class 3 (WCC 3).
Table 15: Transport climate for living plants 
Transport temperatures for living plants are sometimes close to 0°C (see Table 15). In contrast, transport temperatures for flower bulbs, for example, are far above freezing point as they may be highly susceptible to chilling damage (see Table 16).
Table 16: Transport climate for flower bulbs 
Living plants require particular temperature, humidity/moisture and ventilation conditions (SC VII). Their respiration processes are specifically controlled by maintaining a "dormancy temperature". Oxygen must be supplied and harmful gases (carbon dioxide, ethylene) removed.
Refrigerated containers with a fresh air supply and CA containers are the most suitable for temperature-controlled container transport.
Transport instructions and damage
On the one hand, living plants must be protected from wetting, rain, condensation, container sweat and, during container packing, plants wrapped in sacking must be inspected for moisture damage as mold growth, rot and premature sprouting are otherwise possible. On the other hand, living plants have a tendency to dry out easily. It is thus absolutely essential to provide particular protection for plant roots. Travel temperatures depend on the plant species and must be specified by the shipper. Relative humidity should be 90 - 95%. Using refrigerated containers may result in drying-out of the cargo. Refrigerated containers which can supply humidified air should therefore be used. Flower bulbs require a rel. humidity of only 75%. Living plants are highly sensitive to ethylene: ethylene, like carbon dioxide, can bring about premature sprouting, and plants should thus never be stowed together in the same container with cargoes of fruit. CO2 content should not exceed 0.1 vol%.
A supply of fresh air must be provided in order to prevent any build-up of carbon dioxide and ethylene. Plants, especially herbaceous perennials and shrubs with tender tip growth, such as privet, suffer from heat and sweat if inadequate ventilation is provided in transit. Overheating causes foliage to die.
Living plants may bring plant diseases/pests into the container which may infest simultaneously or subsequently transported cargoes or be released into other ports. A certificate of origin and phytosanitary certificate from the exporting country are required. Rats and mice may also be brought on board with the plants. If inspection by the phytosanitary authorities at the destination reveals that the cargo is infested by certain pests, the refrigerated container must be thoroughly cleaned after unpacking.
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