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Development of molecular diagnostic tools to improve quality in cut flowers - HH2605NOF

Cut flowers are a rapidly growing sector of the horticultural industry and there is intense competition within the industry for improving quality and longevity to the consumer. There are a number of commercial treatments available to prolong the vase-life of species in which senescence is controlled by the plant growth regulator (PGR) ethylene, however there are no such treatments for the large number of flowers that do not produce, or respond, to this PGR. Many of the UK produced floral crops fall into this category, including Alstroemeria, a species we have been studying for the past three years in a MAFF funded project.

This proposal will harness new genomic technologies in order to develop a profile of genes indicative of potential floral quality and longevity, using Alstroemeria as an example of ethylene-insensitive senescence species. We will use two independent techniques to produce distinct microarrays each featuring numerous floral genes that will then be screened to identify those genes that show up or down regulation in association with senescence. The most informative genes from each of the two methods will be combined to produce a microarray containing several hundred genes from Alstroemeria showing differential expression during senescence. This will then be used to generate a dynamic fingerprint of gene expression, confirmed by RT-PCR, at the stages between commercial harvest and the final retail point. The effects of commercial handling procedures on this genomic fingerprint will then be assessed with the aim of identifying those genes with the potential for development into a diagnostic kit for floral quality and longevity. Towards the end of the project, the applicability of the arrays to related to lily species will be investigated, and candidate genes useful for other cut flower species will be identified.

This project will be carried out jointly by research groups at Universities in Cardiff and Royal Holloway, and at HRI-Wellesbourne with the collaboration of several growers, packers and retailers. A Steering Group will be established with members of the floriculture industry to ensure that this research meets the needs of its directives. Thus, the industry will be closely involved with this project and will provide further routes for exploiting the outcomes of this work.

1. Formation of steering group with industrial representatives
a) Initial meeting to set up steering group and prepare consortia agreement.
b) Mid-term meeting of steering group.
c) Final meeting of steering group.

2. Global patterns of gene expression in petals
a) Make petal cDNA library.
b) Make array (I) based upon total cDNA library.
c) Sequence genes from array I showing interesting expression patterns.
d) Make subsubtractive library (Suppressive Subtractive Hybridisation).
e) Sequence genes from subtractive library.
f) Make array (II) based upon SSH products.
g) Test arrays I & II with developmental probes & analyse data.
h) Make modified array (III) based upon interesting genes from I & II.

3. Charting physiological changes in flowers throughout the supply chain
a) Physiological studies on treated/stored flowers.
b) Identify key storage regimes affecting floral quality.

4. Identification of diagnostic tools for cut flower quality
a) Prepare probes from flowrs harvested from key storage regimes.
b) Screen array III with prepared probes and analyse data.
c) RT-PCR of genes with diagnostic potential.

5. Assess applicability to other species
a) Prepare probes from other liliaceous flowers.
b) Screen array III with prepared probes from other liliaceous flowers & analyse data.

6. Technology transfer and communication of results
a) Preparation of papers for publication in refereed journals.
b) Preparation of article for Horticultural Trade press.
c) Presentation at relevant trade-orientated event.
Project Documents
• Final Report : Development of molecular diagnostic tools to improve quality in cut flowers   (4610k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2001

To: 2004

Cost: £377,439
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Warwick - HRI, University - Cardiff, Horticulture Research International
Sustainable Farming and Food              
Sustainable Production              
Fields of Study