Fragrance in Flowers
A good place to start is with the fragrance itself. This is a very complex issue. Scent is actually composed of many different biochemicals produced by the plant in question. These are then combined in a proper sequence in the right way to release the scent. Plants don’t produce chemicals in a helter-skelter fashion. They do it in their own time when the conditions are just right. While one chemical might be dependent upon the time of day or temperature, another might have to do with the maturity of the plant or its overall health. There may be a lot more to the physiology of scent and its origins. But in a nut shell, this is how flower fragrance comes about.
The interaction of these different chemicals means that it is not simply a matter of plucking a gene from a scented plant and inserting it into an unscented one by genetic engineering. In more ways than one, it was probably easier to clone Dolly the sheep than it is to create a totally new scented kind of flower.
It is true that we used to have more scented flowers. Take carnations, for instance. What happened over a long period of time was that plant breeders began focusing on other goals besides flower scent. So the end result is unscented carnations and fragrance-free roses.
For the most part, these scientists are more concerned about other plant traits. They want to create varieties that look good. Let’s use roses as an example since they are one of the most important cut flowers. The goal is to create roses with perfect shapes. The rose plant also needs to be ever-blooming so it will produce flowers year-round in the greenhouses or fields. In the case of roses, disease resistance is an important factor. These plants are very prone to black spot and other serious problems.
In addition, the adaptability of the plant to greenhouse culture is always an overriding concern. If a plant’s needs don’t fit into standard greenhouse or field production methods, it will not be a commercial success no matter how good the flowers are.
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