Scent on demand: Scientists enhance the scent of flowers

Oct 06, 2008

A team of scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has found a way to genetically enhance the scent of flowers and implant a scent in those that don't have one.

Smell plays an important role in our lives: It influences the way in which we choose fruit and vegetables, perfume, and even a partner. And yet, smell is not just what we smell with our noses, it's also what we taste, explains Prof. Alexander Vainstein, who is heading the team at the Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment. "Aroma is of major importance for defining the taste of food."

Scent in flowers and plants is used to attract pollinating insects like bees and beetles that pass on the pollen and help in the reproduction and creation of fruit. The intensity of the scent that the flower emanates is influenced by the time of day, depending on weather, age of the flower and the species.

In research that was published recently in the Plant Biotechnology Journal, Prof. Vainstein and his research assistant Michal Moyal Ben-Tzvi succeeded, together with other researchers, to find a way of enhancing the scent of a flower by ten-fold and cause it to emit a scent during day and night - irrespective of the natural rhythm of scent production .

The development, which has been patented by Yissum, the Hebrew University's technology transfer company, is intended to be applied to other agricultural produce.

Utilizing natural components will increase and change not only the smell of fruit and vegetables, but also influence the commercial appeal of a wide array of produce.

The flower industry will also be interested in this development, explains Prof. Vainstein. "Many flowers lost their scent over many years of breeding. Recent developments will help to create flowers with increased scent as well as producing new scent components in the flowers."

Over a third of participants in Flowers and Plants Association surveys stated that scent influenced their choice of flower purchase. Floral scents are also one of the most popular smells and the perfume industry expends a great deal of effort trying to reproduce the authentic fragrance of fresh flowers.

Prof. Vainstein's lab is the only one in the world that researches both the scent and color of flowers. His greenhouse at the Hebrew University's Rehovot campus is full of genetically engineered flowers whose architecture, color and scent the researchers are trying to alter.

Israel is the Middle East's flower-producing superpower. Its flower, plant and propagation material exports bring upwards of $200 million into the economy annually. Israel is third only to the Netherlands and Kenya in supplying the EU with flowers. Each year, 1.5 billion stems are exported - twice as many as 10 years ago.

Source: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Explore further: Japan lawmakers demand continued whaling

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Bees get a buzz from caffeine

Mar 07, 2013

Scientists have today shown that caffeine improves a honeybee's memory and could help the plant recruit more bees to spread its pollen.

Dinosaur forests mapped

Feb 28, 2012

The first detailed maps of the Earth's forests at the time of the dinosaurs have been drawn up. The patterns of vegetation, together with information about the rate of tree growth, support the idea that the ...

Recommended for you

Japan lawmakers demand continued whaling

11 minutes ago

Japanese lawmakers on Wednesday demanded the government redesign its "research" whaling programme to circumvent an international court ruling that described the programme as a commercial hunt dressed up as ...

Revealing camouflaged bacteria

1 hour ago

A research team at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel has discovered an protein family that plays a central role in the fight against the bacterial pathogen Salmonella within the cells. The so cal ...

EU must take urgent action on invasive species

3 hours ago

The EU must take urgent action to halt the spread of invasive species that are threatening native plants and animals across Europe, according to a scientist from Queen's University Belfast.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Revealing camouflaged bacteria

A research team at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel has discovered an protein family that plays a central role in the fight against the bacterial pathogen Salmonella within the cells. The so cal ...

EU must take urgent action on invasive species

The EU must take urgent action to halt the spread of invasive species that are threatening native plants and animals across Europe, according to a scientist from Queen's University Belfast.

Progress in the fight against quantum dissipation

(Phys.org) —Scientists at Yale have confirmed a 50-year-old, previously untested theoretical prediction in physics and improved the energy storage time of a quantum switch by several orders of magnitude. ...