2013 Annual Report
In 2012, we had three Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) scholars graduate with Bachelor of Science degrees from University of Florida, whose research projects focused on elucidating molecular and biochemical aspects of floral fragrance production in petunia. Each scholar earned a co-authorship on a published manuscript that acknowledged funding from the Floriculture Nursery Research Initiative (FNRI). All three scholars are currently in Ph.D. graduate programs in plant sciences (Washington State University, University of Georgia, and City University of New York). In 2013, another group of HHMI undergraduate scholars have been recruited, of which, two scholars have research projects dealing with floral fragrance production and flower development in petunia. Four manuscripts, acknowledging FNRI funding, have been published during 2012-2013 (Journal of Experimental Botany, HortScience, Ecology Letters, and Postharvest Biology and Technology). The latter manuscript and the work therein was the foundation for a US patent application designed to protect the technology of utilizing specific wavelengths in the light spectrum to manipulate how flowers and fruits smell and taste. Also noteworthy, the manuscript published in Ecology Letters used multiple petunia transgenic lines designed to reduce specific chemical constituents of the floral fragrance bouquet, originally created with FNRI funding, to illustrate individual floral volatile compound functions in regard to pollinator attractants and florivor defense. An additional manuscript with work funded by FNRI has been completed and is in the process of submission at the Journal of Experimental Botany. Many new petunia genes have been identified as candidates for an association to floral fragrance production and/or regulation with direct evidence for eight unpublished petunia genes. More specifically, we believe the complete enzymatic pathway from phenylalanine to isoeugenol and eugenol production in petunia can be easily established in a linear manner. Over the past year, our Consumer Assisted Selection and psychophysics methods have become more sophisticated and much more impactful. We have begun assaying, in parallel, flower consumer’s perceived interest and perceived willingness to pay for a specific flower product in collaboration with Distinguished Psychology Professor (Northeastern University) Lisa Feldman Barrett, Ph.D. and President of Moskowitz Jacobs Inc. Howard Moskowitz, Ph.D. Together, we are pioneering a new field of science called ‘cognitive economics’, and using the flower-human interaction as a model.