Moving Beyond Blue Carnations

It was only a matter of time before flowers became the next frontier for biotechnology, and now it has happened. In a joint venture between German-based Selecta Klemm and U.S.-based Mendel Biotechnology Inc., transgenic ornamental plants are only a few years away.

The new entity, Ornamental Bioscience (www.Ornamental-Bioscience.com), combines Mendel’s technological expertise and patent estate in drought, cold and freeze tolerance, disease resistance and flower stability traits, with Selecta’s experience in plant transformation technology, its extensive variety patent estate and experience in marketing ornamentals worldwide.

Christian Klemm, CEO of Ornamental Bioscience, says it is time for the ornamental market to catch up to other areas of agriculture that have already made strides–and profits–in transgenic crop production and marketing.

“We envision the ornamental market will undergo substantial development in the coming decade,” Klemm says. “The global market for ornamentals has an annual retail value of several billion dollars. Ornamental Bioscience will apply modern biotechnology to substantially improve the characteristic traits for producers and consumers to bring us premium positioning in this market.”

While genetically modified (GM) food crops, nicknamed “Frankenfoods” by opponents, came under massive scrutiny in the ’90s and into the 21st century, Klemm says he does not expect the same consumer backlash will occur regarding transgenic ornamental crops.

“Food that we eat is a totally different story from an ornamental plant that we enjoy only looking at,” Klemm says. “So, if there was a risk level with genetically modified organisms in general, it is certainly on a very different level for food versus ornamentals. The GM food on the market today mainly gives benefits to producers. Ornamental Bioscience is developing ornamental plants with a strong focus on consumer, trade and producer traits. Our product will be presented to the consumer as a premium product indicating the extra value that makes them more tolerant and better performing.”

Selecta has been active in biotechnology since 1996, when the company cooperated in developing a blue carnation with Florigene in Australia, Klemm points out. To date, blue carnations are the only transgenic ornamental plants that are produced and distributed worldwide.

“I have not heard about negative consumer reactions to the blue carnation and the product is sold at a price about three times that of an average carnation,” Klemm says. “In Germany, where consumers are very critical, I have heard about two occasions where the blue carnation was presented to consumers indicating the use of biotechnology, with no negative reaction from the public.”

Why Biotech?

So with all the varieties on the market, why go biotech? Klemm says transgenic science applied to ornamental crops will bring benefits to entire plant species.

“Conventional breeding is too slow to reach significant results on targets like cold, freeze, drought or disease resistance,” he says. “Results through breeding could sometimes ask for decades of work.”

Klemm adds Ornamental Bioscience will apply a combination of two technologies, first using biotechnology to “switch on” genes that already naturally exist in the plant, enabling the desired tolerances.

“In the original plant these genes are only ‘switched on’ under certain climatic conditions,” he says. “We try to keep them turned on constantly. Once we get a good result, we go back to a traditional breeding program to improve other traits of the plant like colors, growth, earliness and so on.”

In addition, worldwide issues like global warming and worsening water restrictions create the need for transgenic technology in the landscape, Klemm says.

“We can see daily in the news how climate change becomes a more realistic issue,” he says. “Only a few years ago it still seemed a philosophic discussion between scientists and lobbyists. Certain geographic areas will see more restrictions on the use of water in the coming years.”

Change Is Coming

Currently, Ornamental Science is working exclusively on crops from the Selecta product range, transforming petunias, poinsettias, New Guinea impatiens and geraniums, and Klemm says he expects to see the first transgenic poinsettias and petunias to come on the market within four to six years. Beyond that, the product range will be greatly expanded, he says.

“We believe that this technology has an exciting future and we intend to contribute to its acceptance as an industry standard,” he says. “As part of this strategy, we will cooperate with leading breeders and distributors for pot plants and cut flowers.”

Klemm adds he fully expects competition in the transgenic ornamental crops in years to come.

“I am sure this is just a question of time, as well as availability and access to the right technologies,” he says. “Ornamental Bioscience is giving an answer to very relevant requirements of the future and I am certain that we will not be the only company to address these needs. Consumers are looking for premium products with better performance.”

But consumer demand is just the tip of the iceberg, Klemm says. From the breeder’s and grower’s point of view, he says constantly increasing competition has bred strong demand for improvement, and Ornamental Bioscience hopes to help in that area.

“Ornamental Bioscience technology will give better patent protection for the breeders against copy breeding,” he says. “The products will also be able to open new markets for producers to offer products in territories or seasons were they cannot be offered today due to the product characteristics.”

Selecta First Class, as the exclusive sales organization for Selecta products in the North American market, may be a sales channel for Ornamental Bioscience products, but it is still to early to say, Klemm says.

“The business model of Ornamental Bioscience is different from the one of the existing Selecta products. Sales and marketing will be developed according to the needs of Ornamental Bioscience products.”

Mendel Biotechnology has licensed its technology exclusively to Ornamental Bioscience for the ornamental market, and is a significant minority shareholder in the company. Mendel has partnered with other agricultural and forestry companies to commercialize improved seed and plant products, and is also developing new products for the emerging bioenergy market.

Leave a Reply

More From Varieties...
Penn State University Trial Day

August 26, 2016

How Greenhouse Growers Can Broaden Their Horizons

Allan Armitage says you can learn new ideas to help your business when you get out to visit plant trials and other growers.

Read More

August 23, 2016

Kick Spring Sales Up A Notch With 18 New Plant Introductions For 2017

It’s time to look forward to the spring season and what plants will get your business off to the right start. These 18 new cultivars have all the traits of good breeding — uniform habits, bold colors, showy blooms, good vigor, and excellent branching.

Read More

August 23, 2016

Gardens Alive! Parent Company Buys Zelenka Farms

  Zelenka Farms, which has been in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, says LM Farms, which owns Gardens Alive!, has purchased the company and all of its assets. BFN Operations LLC and its affiliated entities, d/b/a Zelenka Farms, operated one of the largest wholesale nurseries in the U.S. Its products include shrubs, trees, perennials, roses, and groundcovers. The owners of Gardens Alive! have successfully purchased several other companies from bankruptcy and are experienced nursery managers. Niles Kinerk, Chairman of LM Farms, stated that “the opportunity to purchase Zelenka Farms assets and to continue the turnaround that is well underway is exactly the kind of opportunity that we look for. We understand the efforts of the management team led by Eric Ek and others have been successful, and we will support the management team in the coming months and years.” Zelenka Farms operates its six facilities across the key growing regions in the […]

Read More
Latest Stories
Penn State University Trial Day

August 26, 2016

How Greenhouse Growers Can Broaden Their Horizons

Allan Armitage says you can learn new ideas to help your business when you get out to visit plant trials and other growers.

Read More

August 23, 2016

Kick Spring Sales Up A Notch With 18 New Plant Introduc…

It’s time to look forward to the spring season and what plants will get your business off to the right start. These 18 new cultivars have all the traits of good breeding — uniform habits, bold colors, showy blooms, good vigor, and excellent branching.

Read More

August 23, 2016

Gardens Alive! Parent Company Buys Zelenka Farms

  Zelenka Farms, which has been in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, says LM Farms, which owns Gardens Alive!, has purchased the company and all of its assets. BFN Operations LLC and its affiliated entities, d/b/a Zelenka Farms, operated one of the largest wholesale nurseries in the U.S. Its products include shrubs, trees, perennials, roses, and groundcovers. The owners of Gardens Alive! have successfully purchased several other companies from bankruptcy and are experienced nursery managers. Niles Kinerk, Chairman of LM Farms, stated that “the opportunity to purchase Zelenka Farms assets and to continue the turnaround that is well underway is exactly the kind of opportunity that we look for. We understand the efforts of the management team led by Eric Ek and others have been successful, and we will support the management team in the coming months and years.” Zelenka Farms operates its six facilities across the key growing regions in the […]

Read More
Coreopsis-UpTickCream-19793-DarwinPerennials

August 20, 2016

Growing Tips On Coreopsis UpTick Series From John Wilso…

Editor’s Note: In this new feature, the Greenhouse Grower varieties team will choose one noteworthy variety each month we think is worth bringing to your attention. Then we’ll share growers’ and breeders’ perspectives on the best ways to produce it successfully at your operation. This month we focus on the hardy Coreopsis UpTick series, winner of Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Industry’s Choice Medal of Excellence for Breeding. Growing Tips From John Wilson, Seville Farms When asked about producing Coreopsis UpTick, John Wilson says he doesn’t have much to say because it was so easy to grow. Wilson, a Corporate Grower for Seville Farms, says based on the new series’ strong performance during the trialing he has done so far, the nursery ordered a large quantity of the plants for future growing. “If breeders were looking to come up with something that says ‘wow,’ they have done it with the UpTick Series,” […]

Read More
Eucomis arrangement from Golden State Bulb

August 19, 2016

What’s New With Blooming Potted Plants

From exotic orchids and lilies to flashy red cyclamen and jaunty gerberas, new blooming potted plants come in every shape, size, and color.

Read More
Craspedia Golf Ball Beauty (Danziger)

August 19, 2016

Learn How Unconventional Plants Can Be Hidden Gems

According to Kelly Norris, plant breeding inspired by consumer motivations and interests restores our connection with consumers thirsty for out-of-the-ordinary plants.

Read More
Petunia 'Moonstruck' (2015 Welby Gardens Field Trials)

August 9, 2016

Welby Gardens Names Top Selections From Its Trial Garde…

Welby Gardens, an exclusive grower of Hardy Boy Plants, tested more than 900 varieties this year in its field and container trials. Find out which varieties were the cream of the crop.

Read More

August 6, 2016

Growing Tips On Petunia ‘Night Sky’ From Da…

Production tips for Petunia ‘Night Sky’ from Dan Chaney, Vice President of Production, at Ivy Acres.

Read More
Janeen Wright

August 5, 2016

Deliver Plant Performance As Promised

It would be ludicrous to promise more than you can deliver. But you can deliver more than you promise to your greenhouse customers.

Read More
OSU 2016 In-Ground trials

August 2, 2016

Ohio State University 2016 Plant Trials Offer Real-Time…

The Ohio State University (OSU) displayed more than 500 cultivars for evaluation this year at the Chadwick Arboretum and Learning Gardens in Columbus, OH. Several Cultivate'16 attendees took the opportunity to wander the trial grounds and evaluate in-ground entries and those in sun and shade containers and hanging baskets.

Read More
Bellis Speedster (Benary)

August 2, 2016

How Fall Can Be About More Than Pansies

Allan Armitage suggests a few notable plants for the fall shoulder, fall sales, and spring shoulder seasons.

Read More
Petunia 'Amore Queen of Hearts' from Danziger

August 1, 2016

Danziger Targets Future Growth With Recent Management C…

The changes will provide a foundation of growth, creativity, and innovation, notes Micha Danziger, who will now serve as chairman of the Board of Directors.

Read More
Griffin 2017 Seed and Plant catalog

July 31, 2016

Griffin 2017 Plant Catalog Now Available In Print And D…

The print catalog features more than 280 new varieties, while the digital edition has several bonus resources.

Read More
Westhoff-Florist Holland combos

July 30, 2016

Pair New Spring Crops With Fresh Ideas For Increased Sa…

There are plenty of exciting, new spring crops to consider incorporating into your crop selection. What will set your operation apart is how creative you are about what plants you select, and how you promote them.

Read More
Pleasant View Gardens Savor Edibles

July 22, 2016

Pleasant View Gardens Targets Millennials With Savor Ed…

Taking something as ubiquitous as vegetables and herbs and giving it a fresh new look is no easy task, but Pleasant View Gardens took on the challenge with extensive research and creative marketing.

Read More
Dummen New Columbus Office

July 21, 2016

Dümmen Orange Opens New North American Headquarters In …

The new office, which officially opened during Cultivate’16, supports the company’s vision to be integrated into a vibrant and inspiring community, and provides a bright, modern workspace for its approximately 30 local employees.

Read More
Pollen Free Lisianthus

July 20, 2016

Sakata Seed Develops World’s First Pollen-Free Lisianth…

With no stamen to produce pollen, the new Lisianthus varieties have improved flower durability and the benefit of no scattered pollen that can cause staining of flowers and machines.

Read More

July 19, 2016

17 New Vegetable Intros For Greenhouse Production

New varieties of edibles introduced at 2016 California Spring Trials offer something for every type of gardener, from the beginning do-it-yourselfer to the hardcore, heirloom-only type. Check out some of the new varieties we saw at Spring Trials this year that will be available for retail in 2017.

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