Glowing Plants: The Next Big Opportunity?

Glowing Plants: The Next Big Opportunity?

The notion of plants glowing in the dark is a captivating one. From the Scarlet Flower based in Slavic folklore to the Pandora forests in the movie “Avatar,” people have been mesmerized by the possibility of plants and flowers illuminating the night.

In the past, both scientists and growers have tried to make plants glow, and these attempts have been noticed by the general and science media. However, all of the “glowing plants” generated so far required either chemicals to be sprayed on them to induce glow for a short period of time, or external “black light” illumination to achieve the glow-like effect–or both.

Some recent examples are illuminating roses and mums sold under the brand name Glowing Flowers at the FloraHolland auction in Naaldwijk, Netherlands. These plants have been treated with a patented dye and then exposed to daylight or black light to “charge” them to emit light for a limited period of time. Both have sold at about 50 percent more than what the untreated flowers sell for, demonstrating that people are so excited by plants glowing in the dark that they’re even prepared to pay a premium for them.

New Technology

Now, the next generation of glowing plants is here. Bioglow, a biotechnology company that specializes in state-of-the-art genetic engineering, has developed a transgenic technology that enables living plants to emit light visible to the naked human eye. Unlike other glowing plants, the glow of these new autonomously luminescent (autoluminescent) plants is a natural part of the plant’s life cycle and is not dependent on any chemicals or external black light sources. The autoluminescent plants are an environmentally friendly and cost-effective alternative.

The autoluminescent plants were generated using an advanced genetic engineering approach. A complete metabolic pathway required for light emission has been genetically engineered into the plant’s genetic material, becoming an integral part of the plant and allowing for inherent light emission. The glow continues throughout the life of the plant and is stable from generation to generation.

Just like the firefly or any other naturally glowing organism, autoluminescent plants simply glow. The prototype plants developed by Bioglow belong to nicotiana species–the model organism in plant molecular research.

Impressions

Bioglow invited several growers and retailers from the New York City area to check out the autoluminescent plants firsthand. Here are a few impressions:

– “I was intrigued when I received a phone call from Alex and his partners asking me if I would be interested in seeing glowing plants. Although the Nicotiana plants glowed only feebly, Alex explained it would be possible to produce robustly glowing plants in the near future. He then went on to describe the limitless possibilities of transgenic technology. Leaving there, I could not help but feel that floriculture as I understood it was about to change dramatically.”–Jeff Keil, manager and grower, Otto Keil Florists

– “Seeing plants glow was a remarkable experience. I am very excited about glowing plants and believe they will be a significant introduction to the industry. Glowing plant technology can enhance the landscape, offering unique and beautiful changes to both perennial and annual plantings and beds. Seasonal displays will also benefit from the addition of glowing stems. The possibilities are endless. Landscaping with glowing plants may also help to conserve electricity, limiting the need for electric landscape lighting regularly used in gardens. I have no doubt consumers will be thrilled to see living glowing plants outside their homes and in their private gardens.”–Noah Schwartz, head grower, Garden State Growers

What’s Next?

The first glowing Nicotiana prototype plant is, as Keil points out, relatively dim and requires dark-adapted eyes to see. Bioglow is currently working on enhancing light output levels of the autoluminescent plants, increasing their aesthetic appeal and making them more charming.

Bioglow’s technology potentially enables conversion of essentially any plant species into a glowing variety. Moreover, the emitted light can further be modified in color and even segregated to specific plant parts (i.e. leaves, flowers), providing for an essentially unlimited variety of glowing plants.

The experience with prototype Nicotiana plants shows glowing plants do not require any special treatment and do not differ in any regard–growth rate, size, etc.–from their regular, non-glowing counterparts. The plants demonstrate that growing autoluminescent plants will fit perfectly into the existing practices of the floriculture industry.

The autoluminescent plants are aimed to captivate the consumer’s imagination. One can envision a wide range of glowing plants as consumer products, from exclusive glowing plants for weddings and high-end private gardens to landscape plants lighting driveways and backyards.

Leave a Reply

2 comments on “Glowing Plants: The Next Big Opportunity?

  1. Respected sir Alex, I am really inspired bu your technology, I would like to work with you after i complete my M.Phil in Biotechnology. I am a student of biotechnology here in Pakistan, FC College University, Lahore.I am a rapstar, and a Part -time school teacher. Please reply if possible at my mail address. Thank you. God bless you and Best of luck. Waiting

Latest Stories
Chick Charms

April 29, 2016

Kelly Norris: Why The Plant Collector Market Is Set To …

In his latest column for Greenhouse Grower magazine, Kelly Norris says there are more plant collectors out there than we think, which opens the way for the gift plant market to explode.

Read More
Natureworks Monarch life cycle caterpillar FEATURE

April 29, 2016

Do Customers Really Care How Plants Are Grown?

The consumer uprising against neonicotinoids has roiled the industry over the past couple of years. In June 2013, someone applied pesticide to a tree in full bloom, using the product in an off-label manner. That misapplication killed tens of thousands of bees, capturing the attention of activists. A short three years later, that activism has led to policy changes for big chains like The Home Depot and Lowe’s. Several cities and towns across the country have banned the sale of neonicotinoids. All of this made me curious. How was all the publicity affecting consumer attitudes at local garden stores? Traditionally, customers have shown little interest in how flowering plants are grown, other than they like the idea that they are from a local source. They have been much more particular about food plants than they have ornamentals. So I sent questions out to a few retailers across the country, and […]

Read More
Pennisetum Fireworks

April 28, 2016

Why Ornamental Grasses Are Great For People In Condos A…

Allan Armitage says breeders need to do a better job of making growers, brokers, and garden centers aware of better ornamental grass cultivars for the increasingly shrinking garden space.

Read More

April 28, 2016

Holistic, Integrated Approach To Pest Control Rooted In…

Greenhouse growers have been practicing integrated pest management for decades, but it’s becoming increasingly more important with the continued scrutiny of conventional pest control by a number of “regulators” — government, retail, and consumers. I just returned from Meister Media Worldwide’s Biocontrols USA 2016 Conference, in Monterey, CA, at the beginning of March this year, which served 450 attendees and 50 exhibiting supplier companies. It’s clear from the presentations and the growing attendance at this specialized event — now only in its second year — that use of biocontrols in IPM will continue to be adopted widely, as more growers get past their personal hurdles of doubt and intimidation, and embrace a new way to approach pest and disease control. Many growers think of using biocontrols as an all-or-nothing approach, but ultimately, IPM is about balance. Growers will need to continue to focus on IPM, integrating chemistry with biology, because […]

Read More
Drip irrigated citrus liner

April 27, 2016

Unclog Drip Emitters In Your Greenhouse

This is the first article in a series of case studies designed to help growers reduce, remediate, and recycle irrigation water as part of a multi-state research grant (CleanWateR3.org).

Read More
Andropogon gerardii Blackhawks (Intrinsic Perennial Gardens)

April 27, 2016

Know Your Market When Choosing Ornamental Grasses

Growers have no shortage of choices in the ornamental grass market. Narrowing down the selection comes down to finding the right plant for the right purpose.

Read More
Fine Americas Website Feature Image

April 26, 2016

Fine Americas Offers A Digital Resource For Plant Growt…

The blog section of Fine America’s website is updated regularly, with input from both technical managers and independent researchers

Read More

April 26, 2016

“Bee-Friendly” Labels Matter To Plant Consumers, Accord…

Research at Michigan State University shows ornamental plant buyers understand and respond to bee-friendly production practices.

Read More
Cicada (Greg Hoover, Penn State)

April 26, 2016

Cicadas Set To Emerge In Several Eastern States This Sp…

While there’s no immediate cause for alarm, experts say the cicada’s egg-laying process can damage woody ornamentals and make them vulnerable to diseases.

Read More

April 26, 2016

How To Host A Spectacular Farm Dinner

Farm-to-table dinners are a great way to connect your customers with a love for nature and growing things. These three green industry companies have had a lot of success with their farm dinners. Find out what it takes to pull one of these dinners off successfully. Advice from Tangletown Garden’s Dean Englemann: You have to be certain you’re matching the ticket price to the experience, make sure you’re exceeding expectations. It can’t just be about the food. You have to deliver the experience. For us, we want to make sure there’s a lasting experience of connecting our food to families and dining. For lack of a better comparison, we want sitting in a field, eating food we grew and created, to be a religious experience. There’s almost a ceremonial aspect to these dinners. We’ve always thought that the shortest distance between the earth and people is the distance between the hand and the […]

Read More

April 26, 2016

Fun Display Ideas From California Spring Trials

In a year that was light on new introductions, plant breeders ramped up their display creativity. Garden retailers can find a lot of inspiration for their own stores here!  

Read More

April 26, 2016

12 Questions To Test If Your Store Is New-Customer Frie…

Consultant Ian Baldwin offers ways to help you look at your store with fresh eyes and how you can make it welcoming for new gardeners.

Read More
University of Florida Online Greenhouse Training Courses

April 25, 2016

University of Florida Offering Online Training Courses …

There will be five courses offered, with the first starting on May 30. Courses are available in both English and Spanish and range from beginner level to advanced education.

Read More
Bee on Bidens

April 25, 2016

Breeders Go The Distance To Bring New Plant Varieties T…

Breeders are meeting the demand for new varieties that perform and sell well by extending trialing to engage the grower community, using advanced technology, and encouraging international collaboration.

Read More
Parisitic Wasp Aphidius colemani

April 25, 2016

Plant Growth Regulator Use Can Affect Biological Pest C…

The use of plant growth regulators may negatively influence the outcome of biological control programs, according to researchers at North Carolina State University.

Read More
HGTV_2015CAST

April 24, 2016

9 Business Predictions Smart Brands Should Pay Attentio…

Andreas von der Heydt, Director of Kindle at Amazon, recently predicted what smart businesses will do in 2016 to strengthen their brands and promote their products.

Read More
North American greenhouse 1

April 23, 2016

Light Matters In Greenhouse Structures

The design of your greenhouse structure, in terms of light transmission, can have a powerful impact on your bottom-line profits.

Read More
Lin Schmale 1996

April 23, 2016

SAF’s Lin Schmale Offers Lessons From An Industry…

Schmale represented the floriculture industry on Capitol Hill for more than 20 years. The advocate has recently retired, and shares some valuable insights from her career.

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]