Jun 26, 2023
AFE announces 2023-24 research funding

Growth and advancement are the keys to success in an ever-changing world. The American Floral Endowment (AFE) aims to aid our industry in these areas by supporting impactful research which addresses current challenges, provides new advances and shares best practices. Each year, the Endowment funds new and innovative projects targeting current needs based directly on feedback from industry leaders.

In 2023-2024, AFE will support 12 research projects in total, including five new research projects and seven continuing projects with $550,000 in funding from the Endowment’s Research Funds.

“Research is hugely impactful to our industry, ensuring that the highest quality flowers and plants make it from seed or cuttings to the consumer’s home. These projects will help the industry increase profitability, streamline processes, and take advantage of new technologies,” said Dr. Terril Nell, AFE research director.

New Projects

Plant Breeding and Genetic Engineering

Use of CRISPR to Develop Powdery Mildew Resistance in Gerbera: Dayton Wilde, University of Georgia

Objective: 1. Gene editing of the gerbera MLO gene to confer powdery mildew resistance. 2. Develop a somatic embryogenesis system for gerbera. 3. Investigate non-transgenic means to introduce CRISPR constructs.

Disease Management

Enhancing the Performance of Biological Control Agents for Botrytis Control: Jim Faust, Clemson University and Anissa Poleatewich, University of New Hampshire (Funded by the Thrips & Botrytis Research Fund)

Objective: Prospective biological control agents for Botrytis blight often perform well in the lab but fail in the greenhouse. Our objective is to enhance the performance of these organisms by understanding the reason(s) that they fail and then provide the conditions that will help them survive and succeed as disease management tools in the greenhouse environment

Asteraceae Petal Blight: Pathogen Identification and Methods to Facilitate Effective Control Strategies: Julia Kerrigan, Clemson University

Objective: Identify causal organisms from flowers received from different commercial locations and seasons. Develop methodology to distinguish these organisms. Screen fungicides for efficacy and resistance.


Development of Potent Ethylene Antagonists for Floricultural Crops: Rasika Dias, The University of Texas at Arlington

Objective: Development of potent anti-ethylene products for commercial use by selective targeting of ethylene binding sites, blocking ethylene bio-synthetic pathways, and creating stabilized silver formations.

Production Technology/Tools

Identification and Application of Plant Growth Promoting Bacteria to Improve Floriculture Crop Plant Quality and Reduce Inputs: Michelle Jones, The Ohio State University (Funded by the Gus Poesch Research Fund)

Objective: The goal of this proposal is to screen the OSU greenhouse rhizospheric bacteria collection to identify bacteria that can promote growth with lower fertilizer inputs and to characterize and optimize the growth-promoting effects of these bacteria in containerized soilless greenhouse production systems.

Continuing Projects

Plant Breeding and Genetic Engineering

Engineering Floral Fragrance to New Heights Using a Synthetic Biology Approach: Thomas Colquhoun, University of Florida

Objective: Use differential transcriptomics and metabolomics to identify regulatory players involved in the enormous expression of a gene (THI4), which is responsible for the production of a special floral volatile from Caladium; 2, Clone, analyze, and functionally test the Caladium THI4 promoter sequence; 3, Produce transgenic plants overexpressing the regulatory features found for THI4 expression.

Disease Management

Supporting the U.S. Specialty Cut Flower Industry through Diagnostics, Disease Management and Outreach: Francesca Hand, The Ohio State University (Funded by the Gus Poesch Research Fund in partnership with the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers and the Joseph H. Hill Memorial Research Fund)

Objective: Evaluate the use of anaerobic soil disinfestation for management of pathogens affecting specialty cut flowers and develop outreach material to educate growers on plant diseases affecting cut flowers.

Optimizing the Efficacy of Beneficial Bacteria against Botrytis Blight in Greenhouse Crops: Michelle Jones, The Ohio State University (Funded by the Thrips & Botrytis Research Fund)

Objective: To determine the best method of applying the bacteria to maximize Botrytis control.

Insect Management

Can Western Flower Thrips Be Managed in Commercial Greenhouses with UV Light?: Bruce Parker, University of Vermont (Funded by the Thrips & Botrytis Research Fund)

Objective: To investigate the use of UV-C light as a significant component of an IPM strategy to manage western flower thrips in commercial greenhouses.

Production Technology/Tools

Developing Foliage Stock Plant, Liner, and Finish Plant Production Protocols for Temperate Climates: Roberto Lopez, Michigan State University

Objective: To quantify how DLI, air and root-zone temperature, and PGRs interact to affect cutting yield and rooting, produce high-quality liners, and model how temperature influences leaf unfolding rates

Manipulating Light Quantity, Quality, and Duration to Improve Timing, Yield, and Quality of Cut Flowers: Roberto Lopez and Caleb Spall, Michigan State University

Objective: To determine the juvenile stage in which flower induction occurs and quantify flowering responses and stem quality to light quantity, quality, and duration.

Altering Petunia Development Rate to Improve Cutting Yield and Crop Production Efficiency: Ryan Warner, Michigan State University

Objective: Determine how altered petunia MEI2-like expression impacts plant development.

To see a full list of currently funded projects, click here.

AFE-funded university researchers work directly with industry members to understand challenges and critical needs. These researchers, along with the help of highly talented graduate students, continue to identify solutions and provide guidelines for all segments of the floral industry to prepare for our future in the present day. In many areas, AFE research has transformed industry practices resulting in costs and labor savings.

Research Funds

With the help of generous donors, AFE can continue to fund ground-breaking research projects with lasting impacts to make the industry stronger. Currently, there are four named funds designated for research – the Gus Poesch Research Fund, Thrips & Botrytis Research Fund, Joseph H. Hill Memorial Research Fund, and the Christian B. Nissen Research Fund. The Gus Poesch Research Fund was established in honor of Gus Poesch, a true innovator and stimulator of research, and an influential educator and respected businessman. The Thrips & Botrytis Research Fund was created to address the control and management of two of the major challenges faced by the industry, with support from 24 industry leaders and organizations. The Christian B. Nissen Research Fund was established by Ole and Eleanor Nissen to honor Christian, a graduate of the University of Florida who worked for the family business, Sunshine State Carnations, until his unfortunate passing at the age of 36. The Joseph H. Hill Memorial Fund was established in 2021 to fund greenhouse cut flower research.

More information on our named funds can be found here. If you are interested in establishing a fund, please reach out to us at afe@endowment.org.