Could bacteria be used to improve cut flower vase life?
Bacteria have long been a foe of cut flower postharvest. Vases and water should be kept clean and clear to prevent bacteria from clogging the xylem that carries water in the stems. Some bacteria even eat away the plant tissue further reducing uptake. Not all bacteria are bad, however. Alicain Carlson and John Dole at NCSU and Ann Matthysse at UNC are investigating the use of a particular bacteria species that can function like a “probiotic” in cut flower vase solutions to improve vase life. This research has the potential to lead to an organic floral preservative for use by the growing number of organic cut flower farmers. Floral preservatives have three general components: an acidifier, a biocide, and a carbohydrate (sugar). The acidifier and carbohydrate are relatively easy to find organic sources for, but the biocide is a bit harder. Currently, there are no highly effective organic floral preservatives.
Studies completed so far with cut zinnia have found the addition of the probiotic bacteria to perform just as well as a commercial floral preservative. While the exact mechanism is not known, the bacteria may be helpful by preventing reductions in stem water uptake by keeping the xylem clear from blockages and reducing the growth of other bacteria. While there is more research to be done, the potential for this concept has been shown. Rose will be the next crop to be tested as it has global importance to the cut flower industry.