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Ornamental Plants, a long path increasingly inspired by sustainable values, worldwide.

Have you ever visited a garden centre to buy cut flowers, ornamental plants, trees or bulbs? In Europe and in the United States, the production of flowers and plants is relevant in terms of economic and social impacts, involving about 31% of the world’s surface devoted to flowers and ornamental plants and 62% of the world’s floriculture production. The global floral industry is blooming considerably covering about 745,000 ha (Hübner, 2020) and the value of the productive sector is expected to reach USD 271.3 Mn by the end of 2031 (Rabobank, 2022).


Behind a particular variety of plant or flower there is a long process of scientific research involving experts in botany, biology, genetics and hybridisation increasingly inspired by innovation and sustainability to respond to changes in society that are affecting the market. In particular, a larger number of consumers are biophilia and neo-ecology followers conveying their motivation through most popular information and communication platforms including the Social Media network. Thus, both the world of research and the entire production chain are committed to achieve the best product while keeping prices reasonable. The pressure of the market, constantly in search of ornamental novelty, and the greater difficulties of cultivation following extreme climatic conditions are pushing to invest more and more in research. One of the breeding aims in the ornamental sector is to add diversity and novelty to the ornamental components like the emerging market in dried flowers and leaves, resulting from new advanced processes (22).

Photo >> Buttercups cultivars from Flowers Riviera (Western Liguria) at Villa Ormond Flowers © MonacoEcoArt

The XXVII International EUCARPIA Symposium Section Ornamentals - From Nature to Culture: Breeding Ornamentals for Sustainability, held from the 2nd to the 5th July 2023 at the University of Genoa, debated on the latest trends, solutions and technologies to move towards a new culture of sustainability in improving flora genetics. MONACŒCOART® attended the event, organised every four years globally, under the umbrella of the European Association for Research on Plant Breeding - EUCARPIA and the International Society for Horticultural Science - ISHS, collecting some relevant feedbacks from the most inspiring interventions.

Photo >> The participants to the XXVII International EUCARPIA Symposium Section Ornamentals - From Nature to Culture: Breeding Ornamentals for Sustainability (University of Genoa, 4th July 2023) © EUCARPIA

Dr. Margherita Beruto, Chair ISHS Division Ornamental Plants- Former Director of Regional Institute for Floriculture in Sanremo (Italy), pointed out: « In the conference section, we had the chance to evaluate the most timely strategies to obtain new ornamental products, with special regard to novel molecular techniques. Various interventions focused precisely on the selection of species more resistant to cold or disease or requiring less water consumption to grow. The convention had therefore a scientific approach integrated with practical applications addressed to the world of industry».

Photo >> Floral elements © MonacoEcoArt Wix

In breeding programmes, a wide genetic base is essential to guarantee more chances in the selection of new characteristics in novel cultivars (1) with special regard to tropical and sub-tropical plants that are arousing greater interest. Plant species resilience providing less maintenance and then energy consumption are currently considered as priorities in selecting floral varieties for commercial purposes. Potted Dianthus, for example, results from the use of Dianthus alpinus in the breeding program in order to get new varieties marked by a faster growth and resistance to water stress and frost. The application of gene editing technologies is also being used for their improvement, as for disease resistance, abiotic stress tolerance, herbicide tolerance, shelf life and yield in flower plants (14). The breeding between Iberis sempervirens and Iberis saxatilis generated a pot plant blooming in winter time, that survive more easily to pests and cold (4). Specific studies on Chrysanthemum's root system are achieving good results in terms of drought resistance through monitored gene outcrossing (16).

Relying on the typicality of native species known to indigenous peoples can be an added value to foster local economies. This approach can also reinforce the legacy with nature preservation, also based on historical acts like the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi between Māori and the British Crown, fostering the preservation of taonga (treasured) species like Leptospermum, Gentianella, Syzygium, and Corynocarpus. A recent research study in New Zealand (2), showcased the benefits of the authentic partnerships between Māori's community and the industry & science including a better governance of data, benefits of sharing agreements, a wider informed consent and a general facilitated access.


The research enhancement of Iranian Dionysia autochthonous species (mainly located in Iran, Afghanistan and South East Anatolia, is leading to assess simultaneously the effects of climate change on the growth zone of this emblematic rocky plant and its commercial potential in view of its spectacular flowering and color variety (3). The latest botanical discoveries in Iran, the Iris Ferdowsii Joharchi & Memariani (to pay tribute to the well known national poet) is arousing great interest not only for its exquisite beauty but also for its role as an indicator of the quality of the environment and possible future commercial use (5). The hybridisation of some species of Dhalia in the Mexican territory of origin is already having promising results of appreciation from the market point of view (6).

Photo >> Flowers field © MonacoEcoArt Wix

In order to achieve meaningful outcomes both in terms of vigorous growth, beauty and response to attacks by bacteria, fungi or parasites. Phosphorus (P) is an essential macronutrient with low availability for plant uptake (7). Sometimes, a synergy between roots and a fungus can be win-win by providing crucial mineral nutrients to Petunias (8). Hybridisation, polyploidisation and hairy root induction can be successful in introducing genes to improve species already particularly popular among consumers, like Hardy Geranium (9). Studying new breeding technology based on roots for apple tree, chrysanthemum, sunflower and rose was also at the base of the 'RootsPlus’ project as a European collaboration among research institutions in Belgium, Germany, Poland and Romania and some companies (18).


Breeding can also make some iconic species to be more tolerant to certain soil PH, as for Ilex Crenata, widely used both in private and public gardens to create ornamental hedges (10). A targeted research study on Ranunculus Asiaticus, widely grown in Italy, selected a quite interesting derived cleaved amplified polymorphic sequences (dCAPS) marker, the first reported molecular tool for this variety, giving it extraordinary aesthetic effects (17).

Photo >> Hydrangeas in blooming © MonacoEcoArt Wix

Looking for new shapes, colours and foliage are constantly desired by breeders, producers, and retail consumers with special regard to some species including the Hydrangeas, one of the most appreciated woody plants. Finding the most suitable genomic mechanism to achieve double-flowering in big-leaf plants is being extremely promising in the United States (11).

Photo >> Lavender field © MonacoEcoArt Wix

In other cases, the breeding is focused on increasing the potential of particularly appreciated species. Notably, Lavender, the most popular Mediterranean shrub, is more and more common as garden plant, besides its wide use as cut flowers and key element in perfumery and cosmetics. A recent research study on Lavandula is selecting the best genotypes to increase its tolerance to cold weather and winter frosts (12). Understanding the control of plant morphology and floral transition in plants is critical to ensure production under changing climate conditions, both for ornamentals and edible plants (19). The use of local species well adapted to Mediterranean dry weather conditions, like the Psammophilous Flora, is then winning considering that saving water, energy and nutrients are crucial for sustainability in agriculture (21). Moreover, the selection and planting of non-invasive species can successfully combat the proliferation of invasive plants to foster a sustainable urban ornamental horticulture, as showed by the "National Biodiversity Future Center - NBFC" Project (24).


Reproducing new cultivars of existing flowers or plants are then moving from increasing the pure aesthetics (number of petals, shape and colours) to focusing on aspects related to plant welfare and its adaptability to various pests and diseases (13). However, breeding globalisation and the coming out of new technologies pushing new and multiple modifications in less time, are putting at risk the regulatory framework protecting the intellectual property of breeding companies in the footsteps of the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants - UPOV (15).

Photo >> Villa Ormond in Fiore Flower's Show (Villa Ormond, Sanremo, 30th April 2023) © MonacoEcoArt

Nowadays, talking about ornamentals is not only referring to a decorative plant or floral element, but to a new lifestyle in line with nature. Integral part of the "horticultural ecology' is being in close collaboration with 'plant communities' bearing the best values of sustainability in urban area where to recreate ecosystems that encourage wildlife to grow in harmony with human beings (20). Based on this approach, wild flora is attracting attention as a potential driving force to promote more sustainable economies, relying on cultural traditions linked to rural territories identities and the bio-cultural heritage (23).

Not by chance, agricultural companies breeding ornamental and flowering plants are rediscovering ancient values to foster sustainability or introducing innovation respectful of the natural rhythms according to the specific needs of each plant species. Thus, reputation, trust, empathy, clarity, responsiveness shall be included in the new corporate communication storytelling based on reliable and traceable sources are key factors to make a difference on the market and foster eco-responsibility in the target audience (26). At the moment a priority in the spotlight of the European Union that is working on the Green Claims Directive aiming at protecting the consumer in his choices and standardising the criteria for labelling and verification of sustainability data in support of company policies.


The XXVII International EUCARPIA Symposium Section Ornamentals - From Nature to Culture: Breeding Ornamentals for Sustainability has offered the opportunity to give voice to one of the most growing sectors addressing the various aspects from a multidisciplinary point of view, a winning recipe for ensuring a genuine shift towards clever forms of Sustainability to be put in practice with conviction and sharing of intentions. ***

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By Maurice Abbati





Springer International Publishing





















LINK TO ABSTRACTS PUBLISHED ON BELS - Bulletin of Environmental and Life Sciences, Vol. 5 No. 2 (2023)

(1) FROM WILD SPECIES TO ORNAMENTAL CROPS. A NEVER-ENDING STORY RODRIGO BARBA GONZALEZ1*, ERNESTO TAPIA-CAMPOS1, JOSÉ MANUEL RODRIGUEZ-DOMÍNGUEZ1 1Centro de Investigación y Asistencia en Tecnología y Diseño del Estado de Jalisco A.C. (CIATEJ), Av. Normalistas 800, Colinas de la Normal, 44270. Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico.

(2) ETHICAL PLANT ACCESS – EXPERIENCES IN NEW ZEALAND - KEITH ALLEN FUNNELL1*, WAYNE BLISSETT2

1 Plant and Food Research, Private Bag 11600, Manawatu Mail Centre, Palmerston North, 4442, New Zealand 2 Rangitāne o Manawatū, Maxwells Line, 4410 Manawatu Palmerston North, New Zealand

(3) IRANIAN DIONYSIA, DOMESTICATION TO COMMERCIALIZATION SAJAD ALIPOUR1*, RAMIAR MAJIDI2, MAGNUS LIDEN3

1 Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Faculty of Agriculture Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Mashhad, Iran. 2 Botanist, Independent researcher, Shiraz, Iran. 3. Department of Organismal Biology, Systematic Biology, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden

(4) SHORT NOTES ON BREEDING USING BOTANICAL SPECIES TO PRODUCE INNOVATIVE ORNAMENTAL PRODUCTS FLAVIO SAPIA1* 1Hybrida S.r.l., Strada Villetta 19, 18038 Sanremo, Italy

(5) IRIS FERDOWSII, A THREATENED AND ENDANGERED IRANIAN IRIS NASIM SAFARI1*, ALI TEHRANIFAR1, MAHDIYEH KHARRAZI2 1 Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Mashhad, Iran 2 Academic Center for Education, Culture and Research (ACECR), Mashhad, Iran

(6) INTERSPECIFIC HYBRIDIZATION OF DAHLIA (ASTERACEAE) FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF VARIETIES WITH ORNAMENTAL VALUE

RAFAEL AGUIRRE ZARATE1*, JOSE MERCED MEJIA-MUÑOZ1, TERESA COLINAS LEÓN1, MA DE JESÚS JUÁREZ HERNÁNDEZ1, JUAN PORFIRIO LEGARIA SOLANO1, KEITH RICHARD WILLIAM HAMMETT2 1 Dep. de Fitotecnia, Universidad Autónoma Chapingo, km 38.5 Carr. México-Texcoco, Chapingo, 56230, Mexico 2 Institute of New Zealand Ltd, New Zealand

(7) SUSTAINABLE PRODUCTION OF GREENHOUSE ORNAMENTALS USING PLANT GROWTH PROMOTING BACTERIA MICHELLE JONES1*, JUAN QUIJIA PILLAJO1, SACHIN NAIK1 1 Department of Horticulture and Crop Science, The Ohio State University, 1680 Madison Ave, Wooster, OH 44691-4096, USA

(8) THE MYCORRHIZA RESPONSIVENESS OF A PETUNIA RIL POPULATION IS INFLUENCED BY ENVIRONMENTAL AND GENETIC FACTORS PHILIPP FRANKEN1*, JULIA BRANDES1 1 FGK, University of Applied Sciences Erfurt, Kühnhäuserstrae 101, 99090 Erfurt, Germany

(9) BREEDING OPPORTUNITIES IN GERANIACEAE: ENHANCING GENETIC DIVERSITY AND ORNAMENTAL TRAITS MEHRDAD AKBARZADEH1*, STEFAAN P.O. WERBROUCK2, JOHAN VAN HUYLENBROECK1, EMMY DHOOGHE2 1 Inst. for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (ILVO), Caritasstraat 39, 9090 Melle, Belgium 2 Ghent University, Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, Coupure Links 653, 9000 Ghent, Belgium

(10) A BIO-ASSAY TO SCREEN ILEX CRENATA FOR TOLERANCE TO HIGH SOIL PH AND BLACK ROOT ROT RESISTANCE ESTHER GEUKENS1*, KURT HEUNGENS1, ERIK SMOLDERS2, LEEN LEUS1 1 Plant Sci. Unit, Flanders Res. Inst. for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (ILVO), Caritasstraat 39, 9090, Melle, Belgium 2 Division of Soil and Water Management Kasteelpark Arenberg 20 - box 2459, 3001 Leuven, Belgium

(11) GENOMIC ANALYSIS OF INFLORESCENCE DEVELOPMENT AND DOUBLE FLOWERING IN BIGLEAF HYDRANGEA LISA ALEXANDER1*, XINGBO WU2, AMANDA HULSE-KEMP3 1 Otis L. Floyd Nursery Research Center, 472 Cadillac Lane, McMinnville TN 37110, USA 2 USDA-ARS FNPRU, Tropical Research and Education Center, University of Florida, Homestead Florida 33031, USA 3 USDA-ARS, Genomics and Bioinformatics Research Unit, Dept of Crop and Soil Sciences, Raleigh NC 27695, USA

(12) EVALUATION OF FROST TOLERANCE SCREENING METHODS TO SUPPORT HARDY LAVENDER BREEDING EWOUT VAN OOST1*, KATRIJN VAN LAERE2, KATHY STEPPE3, PETER LOOTENS2, BERT DE RYBEL3, LEEN LEUS2 1 Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (ILVO), Caritasstraat 39, 9090 Melle, Belgium 2 Ghent University, Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, Coupure links 653, 9000 Ghent, Belgium 3 Ghent University, Department of Plant Biotechnology and Bioinformatics, Technologiepark 71, 9052 Ghent, Belgium

(13) GENE EDITING TO SUPPORT BREEDING IN ORNAMENTAL SPECIES JAN G. SCHAART1*, MARTINA JURANIC 1 1 Wageningen UR Plant Breeding, PO Box 16, 6700 AA Wageningen, Netherlands

(14) EFFICIENT GENOME EDITING IN CARNATION (DIANTHUS CARYOPHYLLUS) USING CRISPR/CAS9 SYSTEM KEXUAN TANG1*, XUEQING FU 1 1 School of Agriculture and Biology, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, 800 Dongchuan Road, Shanghai, 200240, China

(15) SUSTAINABILITY IN ORNAMENTALS NEEDS EFFECTIVE PROTECTION OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY EDGAR KRIEGER1* 1CIOPORA Deichstraße 29, 20459 - Hamburg, Germany

(16) BREEDING FOR DROUGHT TOLERANCE IN CHRYSANTHEMUM WITH AGROBACTERIUM RHIZOGENES AS A NATURAL GENE-DONOR ELLEN DE KEYSER1*, TOM EECKHAUT1, JAROSLAW TYBURSKI2, NATALIA MUCHA2, KATRIJN VAN LAERE1, EMMY DHOOGHE3 1 Plant Sciences Unit, Flanders Research Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (ILVO), Caritasstraat 39, 9090 Melle, Belgium 2 Nicolaus Copernicus University, Gagarina 11, 87-100 Torun, Poland 3 Ghent University, Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, Coupure Links 653, 9000 Gent, Belgium

(17) THE FIRST REFERENCE GENOME OF RANUNCULUS ASIATICUS L. REVEALS A KEY REGION FOR ANTHOCYANIN PIGMENTATION MATTEO MARTINA1*, EZIO PORTIS1, ALBERTO ACQUADRO1, EDOARDO VERGNANO1, LORENZO BARCHI1, SERGIO LANTERI1 1 DISAFA (Dipartimento di Scienze Agrarie, Forestali e Alimentari) Plant Genetics, University of Torino, Largo Paolo Braccini 2, 10095 Grugliasco (TO), Italy

(18) UNRAVELLING THE GENETIC BASIS OF ROSE TRANSFORMATION WITH AGROBACTERIUM RHIZOGENES USING A GENOME-WIDE ASSOCIATION STUDY PHILIPP RÜTER1*, THOMAS DEBENER1, TRAUD WINKELMANN1 1 Group Woody Plant and Propagation Physiology, Leibniz University Hannover, Herrenhäuser Strasse 2, 30419 Lower Saxony Hannover, Germany

(19) NONCODING GENOME: CONTROLLING PLANT MORPHOLOGY AND FLOWERING PREM BHALLA1*, SANGIL LEE1, MOHAN SINGH1 1 School of Agriculture and Food Systems, University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC 3010, Australia

(20) ORNAMENTAL PLANTS IN DIFFERENT CONTEXTS THAT FAVOR SUSTAINABILITY AND QUALITY OF LIFE ROSSANA PORTA1* 1 Gibbon Walk, Putney, SW15 5EE Putney London, United Kingdom

(21) THE USE OF PSAMMOPHILOUS FLORA IN THE MEDITERRANEAN LOW-IMPACT GARDENS CHIARA BONIFAZIO1*, LUCIA VARALDO1, SILVIA TRIPI1, MARCO SAVONA2, CARLO MASCARELLO2, LORENZO CAMERINI2, LUIGI MINUTO1 1 DISTAV. Università degli Studi di Genova, Corso Europa 26, I - 16132, Genova, Italy 2 CREA-OF, Corso degli Inglesi 508, 18038 Sanremo (IM), Italy

(22) DRYING, A SUSTAINABLE WAY OF BRINGING DIVERSITY IN THE ORNAMENTAL SECTOR MOUMITA MALAKAR1*, MARGHERITA BERUTO2, S. JAYASAVITHA3, S. SANKAVI3, S. SIVABALAN3 1 Central University of Tamil Nadu, Neelakudy, Kangalancherry Bridge, Thiruvarur-610005, TamilNadu, India 2 Chair ISHS Ornamental Plants Division, Vicolo Barbarossa, 13, 18038 San Remo Imperia (Italy) 3 Dept of Horticulture Floriculture, CUTN Bridge, Neelakudy, Kangalencherry, Thiruvarur, Tamil Nadu, 610005, India

(23) WILDFLOWERS VALORISE SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE, LOCAL CULTURAL IDENTITY AND TERRITORIAL DEVELOPMENT FRANCESCA BRETZEL1*, SARA GABELLINI2, FRANCESCA PAPINI 2, SILVIA SCARAMUZZI2 1 CNR, IRET Istituto di Ricerca sugli Ecosistemi, Via G. Moruzzi 1, Pisa 56124, Italy 2 Dip. di Scienze e Tecnologie Agrarie, Alimentari, Ambientali e Forestali, Università di Firenze, Via Delle Cascine 18, Firenze, Italy

(24) NEW INSIGHTS ON MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES FOR INVASIVE SPECIES IN URBAN ENVIRONMENT AND SELECTION OF NEW SUSTAINABLE ORNAMENTALS MATTEO CASER1*, GIULIA DANIELE1, NICOLE SEBESTA2, ELENA BARNI2, FEDERICA LARCHER1 1 Dept Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences, University of Torino, Largo Paolo Braccini 2, 10095 Grugliasco (TO), Italy 2 Dipartimento di Scienze della Vita e Biologia dei Sistemi, Università di Torino, Viale Mattioli 25, 10125 Torino

(26) "FLORA & GREEN" ARE THE NEW MUST IN COMMUNICATING YOUR SUSTAINABLE REPUTATION MAURIZIO ABBATI1* 1 Via Fratelli Asquasciati, 38, 18038 Sanremo (Imperia), Italy.

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